Abigail Neal interviews Anne Barnes for the BBC Wales news 10th February 2015: Cancer doctor quit over understaffing at Withybush
Dr Barnes has kept quiet for some time now, probably in the hope that she would be replaced. However, general disinvestment in Withybush, and a recruitment crisis due to poor manpower planning and chronic undercapacity has led to little competition for jobs in rural areas such as Pembrokeshire.
A former cancer specialist says she had to leave her post at Withybush Hospital in Haverfordwest because of inadequate staffing and service changes.
Dr Anne Barnes retired from the Pembrokeshire hospital last summer but came out of retirement hoping to give the health board time to replace her.
However that never happened, and she now says she cannot do “half a job”.
Hywel Dda Heatlh Board said is fully committed to the provision of safe cancer care services at Withybush.
Dr Barnes, who worked as a specialist oncologist in Pembrokeshire for 17 years prior to her retirement in July, said changes to the system had led to delays and left the service understaffed.
From September a new model was introduced to bring Withybush more in line with other district general hospitals.
Patients were being admitted under the care of a general physician rather than a specialist oncologist, sometimes to the specialist cancer ward, and sometimes to others depending on their clinical problems.
Dr Barnes said: “Currently there is no dedicated doctor there in Withybush.
“We haven’t got the junior doctors back, the cancer beds have been put under general medicine, and lots of the patients have said to me, ‘where are we going to go?’
“‘Who are we going to contact – do we have to sit for six hours in A&E and wait to be seen?’ And the answer now I’m afraid is yes.”
‘One crisis to another’
She came out of retirement hoping it would give the board time to replace her but quit in frustration last month when that did not happen.
“There’s no forward planning; it doesn’t happen. It’s crisis management; it just goes from one crisis to another at Hywel Dda.
“I can’t do the job as I feel it needs to be done and if I can’t I would rather not be doing the job at all,” she said.
Hywel Dda University Health Board said Ward 10 at Withybush remained the designated cancer ward and oncology, palliative care and chemotherapy treatment continued to be provided by a team of doctors and nurses.
In a statement, it added a palliative care consultant was providing cover two days a week on a temporary basis and the board was actively recruiting for a full-time candidate.
Other doctors from both their board and Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board were providing cover for the chemotherapy day unit.
Dr Sian Lewis from the board said they had been sorry to see Dr Barnes go, but added: “We can reassure patients that her withdrawal does not affect the new service introduced in Withybush Hospital and provided by a team of doctors and nurses.”