Welsh health board declares internal major incident at hospital
Hywel Dda University Health Board has declared a major incident at Withybush Hospital due to safety concerns after structural issues were identified in the hospital building.
The health board declared the incident after Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) was found in the hospital building.
RAAC is a material that was commonly used in the construction of buildings between the 1960s and 1990s.
Roof and structures made of RAAC have been described as of “limited durability” and concerns have increased recently following several incidents including the failure of two RAAC roofs without warning.
Its presence has been confirmed at Withybush Hospital in Haverford West and in part of Bronglais hospital.
It has also been identified at a range of NHS properties across the UK, including several in Wales.
The health board has said that declaring the internal major incident will allow it to prioritise the work of teams to deal with the issue and draw upon support from partner agencies that are members of the Dyfed Powys Local Resilience Forum.
The health board says it is working with a Welsh Government approved external contractor to identify the scale of the issue.
This involves surveying each of the RAAC planks on site. Where structural issues are identified, the extent of the remedial work is also being assessed.
Plans were put in place in May 2023, at the start of the survey process, to manage the impact on the operation of day-to-day services at the hospital and prioritise the availability of hospital beds.
However, as they survey progresses the scale of the issues identified is putting additional pressure on the availability of clinical space and is likely to have a knock-on impact on services.
To date, three wards in Withybush have had to close due to the condition of the RAAC planks found and patients have been relocated to other locations in Pembrokeshire.
The health board intends to manage as much of the relocation of patients within Pembrokeshire as possible.
The resulting findings of survey work is, in some cases, requiring patients to be moved from wards to alternative locations and adapting services to reflect the availability of the site.
As time progresses, this is likely to have an impact on other health board services at other sites.
Local measures are also being put in place, including structural props and temporary closure of impacted areas.
Unless notified otherwise, patients should continue to attend their appointments and access services at Withybush Hospital as usual.
However, this may be subject to change at short notice.
Wherever possible, patients will be contacted directly should a change be made to the service or clinic they are due to attend.
Further information will be made available on the health board website at hduhb.nhs.wales/RAAC
A Hywel Dda University Health Board spokesperson said: “We know that the survey work and remedial action can cause considerable disruption and concern amongst members of our community and we apologise for any inconvenience caused.
“The health board would like to thank hospital staff, patients and visitors for their patience and understanding over the coming months while we carry out this essential work.”
Responding to the health board’s declaration, Plaid Cymru spokesperson for health and care, Mabon ap Gwynfor MS said: “Two decades of underinvestment from Labour, and nearly 14 years of underfunding from Westminster and the NHS in Wales is now literally crumbling in front of our eyes.
“We’ve known for a long time that our NHS in Wales is at breaking point and something has to give. There have been long-standing problems with patient flow through hospitals, more and more patients being added to waiting lists, and over the last 12 months our hard-working staff have taken to picket lines over pay and conditions. And now a reminder that the buildings themselves are also vulnerable to pressure.
“This is not the first warning that Labour Welsh Government have had that buildings are not up to scratch. Back in January, we learnt that only 62% of buildings owned by Betsi Cadwaladr UHB are operationally safe. Yes, Welsh Government’s hands are tied by Westminster, but let’s not forget that this has happened on their watch.”
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