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£7.5m renal unit used as meeting room.

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renalTHE PEMBROKESHIRE HERALD can reveal this week that serious concerns have been raised at flagship projects at Withybush Hospital. 

The newly built Renal unit, funded by a £7.5m grant and scheduled to open earlier this year, is currently being used as a conference centre. A spokesperson for the Local Health Board, which built the unit under a commission from The Welsh Renal Network, told the Herald: “The new renal unit is a major investment at Withybush Hospital and contains all the latest technology expected in a modern renal dialysis unit. We are actively working with the Welsh Renal Network to ensure a provider is appointed and renal patients can benefit from these facilities as soon as possible.” The Board announced in April that negotiations with The Welsh Renal Network, responsible for appointing renal service providers, were in final stages with the contract award expected by the end of May 2014. The Pembrokeshire Herald has been assured by a member of the Renal unit’s project board that the unit will open, but a date has not been given. There is also considerable disquiet that the Board intends to salami-slice cancer services away from Withybush to Carmarthen, an impression given some impetus by the Board’s failure to appoint a replacement for Dr Anne Barnes MBE. The Pembrokeshire Herald can report that the Health Board failed to advertise for a replacement for Doctor Barnes until very recently, despite knowing of her intention to leave in January. We also understand that other clinical staff have declined to “fill the gap” left by her departure, leaving the future of cancer care at Withybush under question. Peter Milewski, retired consultant surgeon, told the Herald: “Health Board middle management are only just beginning to get a sense of urgency about the situation despite the long notice they’ve had. So it sounds as though a process of muddling through is just beginning to gather momentum, hopefully maintaining the service as it is. “It’s absolutely typical of the wretched health board to drag their feet while services and waiting times get worse and worse. Apparently there is someone interesting in starting in September, but what will happen between now and then is anyone’s guess.” Lyn Neville, who works for Pembrokeshire Cancer Support, said: “They have done this before when the last consultant left and it’s left them in a hole. They’ve just handed the job to Anne and told her to get on with it. “I had a letter to say that Hywel Dda is experiencing extreme recruitment difficulties. They don’t make the vacancies particularly attractive and threats to services aren’t helping attract people to the county either. They’ve set up an Oncology review group which won’t report until the end of the year, even though Anne is leaving in July. Who is going to cover Oncology when she goes? “There are just two consultants for nearly 250,000 people; they’re in a really big hole. People are genuinely fearful about what is going to happen when Anne leaves and the Health Board has done nothing to ease those fears”. Considerable anger has been caused by the discovery that funds donated for specific health care projects in Pembrokeshire have been diverted to a consolidated central fund. It seems that the generosity of Pembrokeshire charities is being used to fund developments in Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire in what is arguably a considerable breach of trust and confidence between the Board and local health care charities. It has been suggested by staff at Withybush that the new dialysis unit could be shared with the longpromised Cancer Day unit, which shows no sign of being planned other on a very vague basis and without firm commitment from the Board to its provision. The Herald understands that one charity is investigating its legal options in respect of money it has handed over to the Board towards the cost of providing a Cancer Day unit at Withybush Hospital. A spokesperson for the Health Board told us: “The university health board is totally committed to providing chemotherapy for patients in Pembrokeshire. We are currently undertaking a review of Oncology Services which about strengthening and modernising local services providing high quality, safe, effective treatment and care as close to patient’s home as possible. The CHC is participating in this review. “This process is not about reducing the service we offer but is about creating a more sustainable, high quality service. This may mean the way we deliver cancer services may change.” Paul Davies, AM for Preseli Pembrokeshire, said: “I have grown increasingly frustrated and angry with the delay in the opening of the new Renal unit at Withybush Hospital. To have a new building that appears to have been completed some time ago unused is a huge waste. “A number of constituents have contacted me to voice their concerns regarding this as understandably patients are very keen to use this new facility. “Pembrokeshire patients have in some cases had to continue to travel to Carmarthen for treatment, sometimes literally passing the new building that is lying idle. “I have raised this delay in the Senedd with the Minister for Health and Social Services, Mark Drakeford AM. “I have also contacted the Welsh Renal Clinical Network who are managing this scheme. Whilst I understand that the contract to build the unit is complex and includes work at Glangwili and Bronglais Hospitals, I question whether more could and should have been done to allow the new unit at Withybush Hospital to open far sooner.”

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Police urge visitors to ‘check the rules’

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POLICE in Powys are reminding people to check the rules before they travel, as tourists from the Midlands, London and Bristol continue to visit despite lockdown restrictions.

Last weekend more than 1,000 cars were turned around by police in the Brecon Beacons after visitors attempted to access the area around Ystradfellte known as ‘waterfall country’.

Many of those stopped claimed they thought the rules around travel were the same as in England, while others had deliberately flouted them.

Seventy-two per cent of people reported for breaches of Covid-19 restrictions in Powys since March 27 have been from outside the police force area.

“I would like to thank the communities of Powys for their cooperation in recent months in complying with requirements of the Covid 19 legislation and also reassure them we are still working hard with our partners to police the restrictions that remain in place across Wales,” said Superintendent Steve Davies.

“Our officers have worked hard to engage with the public at every opportunity throughout these unprecedented times by explaining what we are doing and why, and encouraging people to make the best choices to protect public health in Wales.

“But where people have clearly flouted the rules we have dealt with them appropriately and issued fines.”

He said officers will continue to conduct stop checks throughout Powys and across the force area this weekend.

In England, people can now travel an unlimited distance for exercise and to access so-called ‘beauty spots’.

But the Welsh Government has said people must remain local – ideally not travelling further than five miles from their home – for exercise or limited leisure pursuits, and this also applies to anyone travelling across the border.

Wales’ three national parks – which include popular sites such as Snowdon, the Elan valley and the Pembrokeshire coast – currently remain closed to the public, as do all National Trust car parks and properties.

The latest Welsh Government advice is available at gov.wales/coronavirus.

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‘Check in, Catch up and Prepare’ All school’s in Wales prepare to enter next phase

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ALL children will have the opportunity to “Check in, Catch Up, Prepare for summer and September”, the Education Minister Kirsty Williams announced today as she published details of the next phase for schools in Wales.

It is proposed that all schools will start the next phase on 29 June, with the term extended by a week, therefore ending on 27 July.

In the next academic year, beginning in September, the intention is that the autumn half-term break will be expanded to two weeks.

In each school there will be a phased approach. Year groups will be split into cohorts with staggered starts, lessons and breaks. It is expected that this will mean, at most, a third of pupils present at any one time, though schools may need time to reach this level of operation.

There will be much smaller classes, providing secure dedicated time with teachers and classmates. This time will include online and personalised classroom experience, getting children and teachers ready for a similar experience in September.

Next week, the Welsh Government will publish guidance to support schools, as well as further and higher education institutions. This will include information on managing their facilities and logistical arrangements, including buildings, resources, cleaning and transport.

The Government is also today publishing a paper from its COVID-19 Technical Advisory Group, representing the latest understanding of the virus with respect to children and education.

Further Education colleges are ensuring that appropriate measures are being taken to re-open for face-to-face learning from 15 June. They will prioritise those students requiring licence to practice assessments and vulnerable learners. This follows close working with Government and the joint trade unions.

Guidance for childcare providers will also be published in the next week, supporting them to increase the numbers of children in attendance alongside schools.

Kirsty Williams said:

“My announcement today gives schools three and a half weeks to continue preparing for the next phase.

“We will use the last weeks of the summer term to make sure pupils, staff and parents are prepared – mentally, emotionally and practically – for the new normal in September.

“29 June means there will have been one full month of test, trace and protect, which will continue to expand. I can also announce that teachers will be a priority group in our new antibody-testing programme. As we continue to keep Wales safe, this approach will be critical.

“The evolving science suggests that warm weather and sunlight gives us the best opportunity to ensure more time in school. Waiting until September would mean almost half a year without schooling. That would be to the detriment to the wellbeing, learning progress and mental health of our young people.

“This is and has been a worrying period for us all. I know that many will feel apprehensive. We have not rushed this work and this decision.

“The three and a half week period before the next phase also gives us time to keep watch on developments elsewhere and provides further check-points to review evidence and the roll-out of testing.

“This is the best practical option that meets my five principles which underpin my decision making.

“I am also convinced that it is only by returning to their own school that we will see increased attendance from our more vulnerable and disadvantaged children.

“Working together we will secure equity and excellence for pupils as they check in, catch up, and prepare for summer and September.”

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Four further coronavirus cases confirmed in Hywel Dda area

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THE LATEST figures from Public Health Wales (PHW) reveal four new cases of coronavirus have been reported in the Hywel Dda Health Board Area.

As of today, June 2, Carmarthenshire identified three new cases, Pembrokeshire has one new case and none in Ceredigion, meaning the new totals stand at 732, 279 and 42.

Wales now has a total of 14,121, with 67 new cases and seven additional deaths recorded, bringing the death total to 1,354.

With Hywel Dda reporting 61 deaths to date.

Dr Giri Shankar, incident director for the Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak response at Public Health Wales, said: “Contact tracing continues in Wales as part of the Welsh Government’s ‘Test, Trace, Protect’ strategy. Contact tracing is the process of identifying people who have come in contact with an individual with Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) in order to prevent the risk of others spreading the infection in our communities.

“Anyone who has a positive Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) test will be contacted by a team of contact tracers, and asked for details of everyone they have had close contact with while they have had symptoms.

“Please keep a note of your activities so you can easily remember your whereabouts on a given day, along with who were in contact with. You do not need to have any concerns about providing names to the tracing team. This is for everyone’s benefit and we are grateful for your continued cooperation.

“If you are asked to self-isolate, you should also comply with this request to prevent further spread of the virus.

“Tracers are trained staff and personal information that you provide will handled in line with data protection regulations and will not be shared widely.

“Over the last few weeks, Public Health Wales has been setting up the methods and guidance for how contact tracing will operate. We will continue to work closely to support local health boards and local authorities in delivering contact tracing.

“Welsh Government’s revised lockdown arrangements also continue. People from two different households in the same local area can meet up outdoors, provided they continue to maintain social distancing and strict hand hygiene.

“The announcement adds that, as a general rule, people should not travel more than five miles from home. This will help to reduce the risk of coronavirus spreading as people begin to travel more.

“Revised lockdown arrangements also apply to people in Wales who have been told to ‘shield’ from the virus. They are able to go outside and meet people from another household, provided they keep a two-metre distance.

“Future relaxation of lockdown measures will also be dependent on everyone following advice set out in the ‘Test, Trace, Protect’ strategy, including self-isolating when required.

“Information about the symptoms of Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) to look out for is available on the Public Health Wales website, or members of the public can use the NHS Wales symptom checker.

“Anyone experiencing Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) symptoms can now apply for a home testing kit using the new UK online portal. For further information and a link to the booking website, visit: www.gov.wales/coronavirus or www.llyw.cymru/coronafeirws. This will be supported by a national 119 phone service, through which people can also order a home test.

“We are encouraging everyone to download the Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) Symptom Study app, which has been supported by Welsh Government. The app allows users to log daily symptoms to help build a clearer picture of how the virus is affecting people. For more information, including how to download the app, visit covid.joinzoe.com.

“As part of wider support measures for families, Public Health Wales is offering all parents, parents-to-be, grandparents and care-givers free access to a series of online courses designed to help them understand the development and emotional milestones of their children, covering everything from pre-birth to late teens.

“To get access users just need to visit www.inourplace.co.uk and use the code ‘NWSOL’ if you live in North Wales, and ‘SWSOL’ if you live in Mid, West or South Wales.

“Public Health Wales is also continuing working to address the negative impact of Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) on the social, mental and physical wellbeing of people in Wales. Our latest campaign, ‘How are you doing?’ is now live and offering practical advice from phw.nhs.wales/howareyoudoing.

“Anyone with a suspected coronavirus illness should not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. They should only contact NHS 111 if they feel they cannot cope with their symptoms at home, their condition gets worse, or their symptoms do not get better after seven days.

“Only call 999 if you are experiencing a life-threatening emergency, do not call 999 just because you are on hold to 111. We appreciate that 111 lines are busy, but you will get through after a wait.

“We also want to reinforce the message from NHS Wales that urgent and emergency care services for physical and mental health are still open and accessible.

“For parents, if your child is unwell and you are concerned you should seek help. If you have urgent dental pain you should still call your dentist. If you have a health complaint that is worrying you and won’t go away you should call your GP practice. If you or a family member are seriously ill or injured you should dial 999 or attend your nearest Emergency Department.”

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