Senedd warned of further ward closures unless more nurses are recruited
The forced closure of an inpatient ward at a district hospital in Gwynedd due to staff shortages will be repeated elsewhere, Plaid Cymru MS for Dwyfor Meirionnydd, Mabon ap Gwynfor has warned.
Tywyn Hospital’s inpatient ward closed earlier this month because there were not enough staff to keep patients safe, according to the local health board.
Speaking in the Senedd, Mr ap Gwynfor said: “The maternity unit has been closed, the minor injuries unit has been closed, and only two weeks ago, and without notice, the in-patient ward was closed—in all cases, we’re told, temporarily.
“This series of closures is largely the consequence of a failure to retain and recruit staff, particularly nurses.
“What we’re seeing in Tywyn will be repeated elsewhere. To reopen the in-patient ward, we need four nurses on bands 6 and 7, and another four to reopen the minor injuries unit.”
In response to Mr ap Gwynfor, Mark Drakeford said 400 nurses were recruited into Wales last year from international sources, and the plan is to recruit another 400 this year.
Mark Drakeford insisted that Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board has a plan to reopen services at Tywyn.
The plan includes a “vigorous recruitment” campaign “both locally and from further afield (in order) to restore the service that has been temporarily withdrawn at the hospital,” said Mr Drakeford.
“What the health board has done, for the next three months, is to concentrate its available staff resources at Dolgellau so that there can be a service available in that area.
My understanding is that, on 12 April, when the decision was made, there were eight patients in in-patient beds at Tywyn, four of whom were due to be discharged home, and four people were to be moved to Dolgellau for their continuing care.”
The two district hospitals in Gwynedd are 20 miles apart.
Mabon ap Gwynfor MS reminded Mr Drakeford that back in 2013, when he himself was health minister, he had welcomed a £5 million investment to Tywyn community hospital.
“Announcing the investment, he said ‘an increase in bed numbers and the integration of several services here will enable more people to be cared for closer to home in an environment which is fit for purpose.”
A decade later, “things have taken a dramatic turn for the worse” Mr ap Gwynfor told the Senedd.
“These were the very services championed by the First Minister back in 2013.”
Ffion Johnstone, Integrated Health Community Director for the West of Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board claims that the closure of the Dyfi Ward at Tywyn Hospital is only temporary.
“This decision has been made to protect the safety of our inpatients until we can achieve sustainable levels of nurse staffing.”
As a result of the ward closure, Ms Johnstone said they are working with the unions “to explore how a small number of affected staff can be temporarily redeployed to support other health services in the local area.
“We would like to stress this is a temporary measure and we are doing all we can to recruit to the nursing posts required to reopen the ward.”
In an earlier statement on 20 April, Ms Johnstone said they had “exhausted all recruitment options.
“Despite our best efforts, we have been unable to recruit adequate numbers of nurses to provide safe nurse staffing levels across both Tywyn and Dolgellau Hospitals.”
On 27 February, Welsh Government Health Minister Eluned Morgan said she was putting Betsi Cadwaladr University health Board “back into Special Measures with immediate effect.”
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