Clarity sought over orthopaedic surgery plans
1:08pm Tuesday 29th October 2013 in News
Health service trade union, Unison, has called on the Welsh Government to intervene over ‘chaos and confusion’ surrounding orthopaedic elective surgery.
Unison wants clarity about whether the surgery will be cancelled or continued in the Hywel Dda Health Board area, including Pembrokeshire.
It was announced last week that the health board will cancel non-urgent elective orthopaedic surgery across the three counties it covers until April 2014.
The union claimed that there was already a 15 months waiting list for elective orthopaedic surgery such as hip and knee replacements and that the cancellation of the service was likely to add a further five to six months waiting time for patients awaiting surgery at hospitals such as Prince Philip Hospital, Llanelli and Withybush Hospital. At a meeting at Prince Philip earlier in the month Unison representative said they were told that the orthopaedic ward would be closed and beds would remain empty, with staff transferred to other hospital settings.
Unison state that the reply from the Health Minister, Mark Drakeford, has insisted that all elective surgery is not being cancelled and there is only a proposal to reduce a number of surgical inpatient beds to cope with additional winter emergencies.
Regional Organiser, Jeff Baker said: “Staff are now completely confused and demoralised. Staff are hearing from their senior managers that the surgery is being cancelled and they are having to be redeployed but at the same time, the Health Minister believes that this is not happening”.
UNISON branch chairman, Wendy Evans added: “How can this be to do with gaining additional beds for winter emergencies when the Orthopaedic ward at Prince Philip will close, beds will remain empty and staff transferred to other hospitals?” The union has written to the Health Minister calling on him to intervene and find out exactly what is going on in order to put an end to ‘unnecessary distress and confusion’.
Hywel Dda Health Board has been asked by the Western Telegraph to clarify the situation at Withybush Hospital and state what will happen to orthopaedic beds there.
Following last week’s announcement, Dr Phil Kloer, director of clinical services, said: “In past years, there have been too many operations cancelled at the last minute due to emergency admissions. In previous winters, we had up to 160 additional beds in place often being managed by temporary staff. This is not a position we can sustain this year.
“To address this, we propose to manage our bed stock and elective surgical lists in a better way during the busiest months this winter to ensure we have the staff capacity to manage emergencies and the most urgent patients.
“We would like to reassure patients that if they have an urgent clinical need they will be seen. Emergency and cancer procedures, the vast majority of orthopaedic day surgery and other elective procedures will also continue.”
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