BBC Wales news reports 5th February 2014: Senedd protest over west Wales specialist baby care changes
Hundreds of campaigners opposing changes to specialist baby care in west Wales have protested at the assembly.
The plans would mean Withybush Hospital’s special care baby unit in Haverfordwest would close.
Hywel Dda health board and the Welsh government have said the changes would provide a better level of care.
Campaigner Chris Overton said Health Minister Mark Drakeford refused to see him. Mr Drakeford met other protestors and said he was “happy” to do so.
Dr Overton, chair of the Save Withybush Action Team (SWAT) and a consultant obstetrician at Withybush, said on Facebook: “Minister refused to see me today. No reason given.”
However, Mr Drakeford posted on twitter “I was happy to meet campaigners from Pembrokeshire this morning as arranged – I hope they found the meeting useful.”
Last month, about 1,000 people marched in protest at the controversial plans.
Panel of experts
Under the proposed new system, doctors in Carmarthen will provide specialist care, with other hospitals eventually providing a midwife-led service.
Bronglais Hospital in Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, will become a midwife-led maternity unit, although during the transition period it will also retain some consultants.
It meant Mr Drakeford stepped in to review the decision himself, and took advice from a panel of experts.
Sue Kenny, a retired nurse from Pembrokeshire, is one of the protesters.
She told BBC Wales the closure of the neo-natal unit was just the start.
“It’s been on the cards for quite a while and an awful lot of people believed that that was all it meant.
“But it transpires that the plan is to remove all paediatric inpatient services and as a result of that, when you consider that a large number of attendances at A&E are to do with children, it looks as though our A&E department is going to be closed 12-hours-a- day.
“It may not seem too terrible to people who don’t know the area but you need to bear in mind there is one main road in and out of Pembrokeshire which not infrequently is closed for one reason or another. The roads are not particularly good and from outlying places in Pembrokeshire an awful lot of ‘B’ road travel.
“So you can imagine that in a real emergency actually getting to Carmarthen within reasonable time frames just becomes impossible.
“Therefore, we are quite convinced that there will be deaths as a result.”
The advisory panel indicated providing special baby care units across the health board was “neither safe nor sustainable”.
On Wednesday, Mark Drakeford had agreed to meet a small delegation, which was to include AMs, Joyce Watson and Rebecca Evans.
Ms Evans said it was a chance for the minister to “address the concerns in detail”.
NHSreality has already said that there is no reason that the specialist centre of excellence should be in Carmarthen rather than Haverfordwest. NHSreality concedes that specialisation saves lives if there are good transport systems, and the ambulance service is well-funded. With the current state of Welsh roads at present, this means an expanded air ambulance service. The GPs in Pembrokeshire agree.