Friday, 19 July 2013

Is the Rhondda going to lose vital hospital services?

When I first moved to the Upper Rhondda, I was amazed and shocked to find that the nearest hospital with full facilities, including A+E, was about 12 miles away at the Royal Glamorgan near Llantrisant.

To drive there from the Upper Rhondda takes about half an hour if the roads are clear, but can take 45 minutes or longer during peak time traffic. For people who do not have access to a car (about 40% of Rhondda residents), an expensive 75-minute journey involving two buses is required. This, added to long hospital waiting times, is tiring and stressful for people who need frequent clinic appointments and plays havoc with life, especially if someone is in employment.

I was turfed out of the Royal Glam A+E at around midnight once, after waiting hours to be treated for a dislocated finger (it happened outside of the opening hours of the local "minor injuries unit" at Llwynipia, three miles away from home). I had to pay £40 for a taxi home!

This is the sort of situation I might expect to find in a third world country, not here.

However, now the plan is to "consolidate" some hospital services even further. Of the five proposed options, the one that people fear will be adopted will move so-called "consultant-led" services away from the Royal Glam to Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr. This will affect the special-care baby unit, complex injuries and suchlike.

Driving to Merthyr from Treorci takes about half an hour, same as to the Royal Glam. However, this is provided the road over the Rhigos mountain is open, which is not always the case in winter. If the road is closed, it takes about an hour, because it's necessary to go all the way out to Pontypridd. The situation is even grimmer for public transport users, who have to go via Pontypridd regardless. Their journey time will take between 95 minutes and two hours and will require using one train plus two buses, or three buses.

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood and Shelly Rees-Owen, local councillor for Pentre and Plaid Cymru candidate for Westminster elections in 2015, at the demo at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital

Today was the last day for public submissions to the "consultation" concerning hospital service provision. It also saw the last of several protest demonstrations, this one being at the Royal Glam itself. I fear though that the decision has already been made, and that the residents of the Rhondda will once again be the direct victims of planned cuts in services.

To add to this threat, Labour-led RCT (Rhondda-Cynon-Taf) Council is looking into imposing zero-hour contracts on home care staff. It is suspected that this will be the prelude to privatising the service.

This double-whammy attack on the healthcare provision in a region with above-average health problems is despicable. It gives me a further reason for supporting Plaid Cymru as the only party that offers hope for a better future to the most deprived parts of Wales.

Members from the Treorci branch of Plaid Cymru, including Treorci local councillors Emyr Webster and Sera Evans-Fear

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