Pembrokeshire protesters take fight to save Withybush Hospital to the Senedd
Updated 5:24pm Wednesday 5th March 2014 in News
This live event has finished
- Dozens of buses en route from Pembrokeshire to Cardiff.
- Hundreds of people to protest on steps of Senedd.
- Huge anger over plans to close Special Care Baby Unit and remove other vital services from Withybush Hospital.
We are going to end the live article there for today as the buses carrying the hundreds of protesters make their way back to Pembrokeshire.
Thanks for reading and make sure you pick up a copy of the Western Telegraph next week for a full report and photographs from the protest.
SWAT chairman Chris Overton: "We're going to have another demonstration at Withybush in April, then we're going back to the Senedd in June.
"Of course , it all depends on judicial review. Llanelli's case is being heard on Friday. Obviously their case is different in a way, but the legal arguments are the same. If they get permission for a judicial review, it is highly likely we will too."
Fantastic day with Pembrokeshire people fighting for essential services in Withybush! ! We'll keep fighting until they see sense xx— @DanisBeauty 05 March 2014
@WG_HealthMin My son would have died if it wasn't for Withybush SCBU. U will have blood on ur hands if YOU close it.. http://t.co/EapiqmxMa0— @chantellerich1 05 March 2014
RT @WelshConfed: Change is never easy but NHS has to change to provide high quality care. Our response to #withybush protest http://t.co/Dd…— @HywelDdaHB 05 March 2014
Lyn venables: "I think the protest went very well but more people need to get on board. Young people especially need to be rallied. We need more oomph.
We need more people, because it's only people who can change this situation, not politicians."
Jim Ash addressed the crowd at the Senedd. He had a serious head injury 17 years ago.
"Without Withybush hospital I wouldn't be here today. It is essential for Pembrokeshire to have a local hospital. I live in Maenclochog and we are often snowed in. Imagine getting from there to Glangwili in bad weather"
"There has been a fantastic turn out, considering a lot of people who support this campaign have to be at work today. I am self-employed and I have lost a day's work to be here.
"I feel we now need a Wales-wide protest at the Senedd. We are not the only ones affected by healthcare issues. Things like this are going on all over the country. We can go to war at the drop of a hat but we can't save a hospital. We will end up like America , where people die in the streets because they can't pay for healthcare."
Western Telegraph reporter Jenny Hanson travelled to cover the protest while her own sister is in labour. Her sister's ongoing experience prompted Jenny to write the following, heartfelt opinion piece:
"As I ran about in front of the Senedd taking pictures and gathering quotes to send back to the office, I couldn't help but be impressed at the sight of over 500 people from Pembrokeshire filling the building's steps while shouting, whistling, singing and waving home made banners in a passionate bid to save services at our hospital. The strength of feeling was almost tangible as everyone, toddlers and grannies alike, joined together to chant "save Withybush hospital!" I can't imagine how anyone could fail be moved by or take notice of this protest, but as we all know, there isn't much room for feelings when it comes to politics. Today, I am nothing but a huge bag of feelings. Right at this moment in time, my sister has been in labour with her first child for 38 hours. She lives in Surrey with her partner, and my mum is with her. She had a textbook pregnancy. She was classed as low risk, and planned for a water birth at home. It has not worked out as she hoped. My dad and I spent a sleepless night last night, as the messages from my mum became increasingly fraught. The baby's head was failing to engage, and my sister's hopes for an intervention-free birth were rapidly dwindling. As I left home this morning, mum texted to say my sister was being taken to hospital to go on a hormone drip. In between reporting this protest, I have received messages that my sister is exhausted, in a lot of pain, and deeply distressed. As the hours creep on, an emergency Caesarian is becoming an ever greater possibility. If what is happening to my family today has taught me anything, it is that there is no such thing as a risk free pregnancy. If things go wrong, they can and do go wrong at the very last minute, and with the best will in the world, a midwife led unit cannot deal with complex emergencies. Most of the people I have interviewed today have either had a child or a grandchild that would probably not be alive today if it wasn't for our special care baby unit and the specialist services that surround it. I am afraid for pregnant women in Pembrokeshire if Withybush gets downgraded. My sister is having a nightmare experience, and the thought of her having to travel 33 miles, scared and in pain, to receive the help she needs, makes me feel physically sick. If the Senedd is listening, I would ask it to think about whether it is prepared to be responsible for the deaths of babies and their mothers. Take away everything else, and that is what this argument boils down to: life, or death. Whether you are having a baby or having a heart attack, Carmarthen is just too far away."
Protester Sophie Findlay: "I think the protest was a success, but it remains to be seen if it makes a difference. Whatever the outcome, I am glad we came."
SAVE WITHYBUSH— @LinsLleisio 05 March 2014
WATCH: Footage from today's Withybush protest at the #Senedd: http://t.co/zAsTBYf0oe #WelshNHS @DarrenMillarAM @AngelaBurnsAM— @WelshConserv 05 March 2014
I was priveleged to join the SAVE WITHYBUSH campaigners at Welsh Assembly today protesting against loss of services. People who love our NHS— @AngelaBurnsAM 05 March 2014
Father and daughter Mathew and Megan Rickard made the journey to Cardiff.
Mathew said: "The loss of children's services is my biggest concern. I feel there is a lack of thought in to how these changes are going to impact on people in our county. One of my fellow councillors has coined the phrase "keep travelling west until you run out of healthcare".
Megan got together her own petition to fight the changes. She said: "I think it is important that children's voices should be heard and it shouldn't just be adults' opinions all the time. Children might not agree with what the adults have to say.
"I got about 1000 signatures in total. I contacted 70 schools and got seven responses. I was disappointed with that. I thought more schools would have joined in. I think today was good because there were lots of people but I didn't think they should have marched on the doors. It was obvious they wouldn't get in.
"I think Mr Drakeford should have come out and explained why he was downgrading our hospital. I wrote to him and he said he would make his decision in due course."
RT @Lee141995: Protesting for withybush, save our services!! @WG_HealthMin— @RadioPembs 05 March 2014
RT @Fergalatron: The crowd outside the senedd fm home fighting to save Withybush was huge. So #pembrokeshire and proud right now— @ProducerOllie 05 March 2014
Withybush Hospital paediatrician Dr Gustavo vas Falco met with Health Minister Mark Drakeford.
Dr Falco told the Western Telegraph: "He listened to our concerns and we expressed our disappointment at the way the plans are moving forward in the direction that the health board want them to.
"We feel there won't be enough safe services in place if paediatrics and maternity move to Carmarthen. He said safety was paramount and they would be monitoring what the health board has put in place.
"He kept saying the decision was based onthe advice from the scrutiny panel he had appointed and that he couldn't argue with their advice."
People being asked to move away from the Senedd doors, Mark Drakeford refusing to come out. #swat #savewityhybush http://t.co/VzImgp3XTh— @Midnight_bliss 05 March 2014
The #SWAT demonstration is now coming to a close outside the Senedd in Cardiff. #Pembrokeshire http://t.co/B1nRthrPQ1— @Midnight_bliss 05 March 2014
Lead campaigner Sue Kenny, said: "I think it has gone really well. To have so many people making this effort is wonderful, and there is such an age range here, from babies to grannies older than me!
"I would hope that the strength of this turnout will make mr drakeford stop and look again at the information and not cherry pick things that support Hywel ddas plans.
"The information he is basing this decision on is outdated and incorrect. How can he make decisions based on that? Most of us are getting older. What if we have a heart attack? What about the 'golden hour' then? I don't think anyone is being alarmist. We are just doing the best we can for the people we love."
.@AngelaBurnsAM addresses #Withybush protestors outside the #Senedd #WelshNHS http://t.co/nZpWEDZnUV— @WelshConserv 05 March 2014
Assembly Member Angela Burns tells the Western Telegraph she believes more services will disappear: "People want to be served in a hospital close to their home and close to their friends and family. We all want people to access good quality treatment. My real fear is: scbu gone; obstetrics gone; paediatrics gone; A and E gone. And it will happen.
"I reckon I have more chance of getting world peace than keeping 24 hour A and E in Withybush. It's a disgrace. Politicians can only do so much. But it's the power of the people that counts. Every one of you who has come here today, I salute you. Keep fighting. I am with you 110%"
Save Withybush Action Team Chairman Chris Overton tells Western Telegraph: "Mr Drakeford did not give any reason for not meeting me today.
"I can only assume he doesn't like people who ask difficult questions and who make strong points and know more answers than he does.
"I have emailed him twice a week, every week since September. Perhaps that's something to do with it. We can only count our success today if it makes a difference. It doesn't seem Mr Drakeford wants to listen. He wants to continue making his mistake and putting lives at risk in Pembrokeshire."
Preseli Pembrokeshire AM Paul Davies addresses the crowds. PICTURE: Pembrokeshire Photography.
PICTURE: Pembrokeshire Photography.
Estimates for the crowd are now around 700 people on the Senedd steps, fully underlining the strength of feeling in Pembrokeshire against the controversial plans of Hwyel Dda Health Board.
RT @WendyBurge1: @GABaines not just #NeoNatal ALL of our vital services at #Withybush are at risk from @WG_HealthMin @Ludicrous proposals!…— @GABaines 05 March 2014
Useful meeting with Health Minister and Withybush campaigners. A good opportunity to air and address concerns. Will follow up with Heath Bd.— @RebeccaEvansAM 05 March 2014
Big lobby for Withybush today http://t.co/AYrHyoWZuh— @LleuW 05 March 2014
Protest against changes to Withybush hospital at Senedd http://t.co/LgmpKX5OSh— @stephenfairc 05 March 2014
Pembrokeshire's Assembly Members have spoken about the protest outside the Senedd:
Preseli Pembrokeshire AM Paul Davies said:
“The voices of all those who have gathered at the Senedd must be respected and considered by Carwyn Jones and Welsh Labour.
“Their plans to strip Withybush of core services are reckless, unnecessary, and dangerous.
“It will mean much longer travelling distances, and - in immediately life-threatening cases - could pose severe harm to mothers and babies.
“I stand with all those here today and I will continue to fight Labour’s damaging centralising NHS agenda.”
Assembly Member for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, Angela Burns, said:
“Given the gravity of this dangerous and irresponsible decision, it is no surprise to see so many making their way to the Senedd steps.
“Every single voice should be heard by Labour ministers and every single view carefully considered.
“Previous promises not to downgrade hospitals have been left in tatters.
“Carwyn Jones and Welsh Labour carry a heavy responsibility in pursuing this centralising agenda.
“Our fight will continue until this decision is reversed.”
This picture shows the sheer number of protesters on the steps of the Senedd. Estimates are of at least 500 people.
Save Withybush Action Team chairman Dr Chris Overton addresses the hundreds of protesters. The crowd chants 'Drakeford Out'.
Gathering on the steps of the Senedd - making Pembrokeshire's voice heard.
Protesters have arrived in Cardiff
RT @angelinadyne: @WG_HealthMin you won't be able to ignore the force of Pembrokeshire today! Don't ignored you are putting lives at risk! …— @jennahayl25 05 March 2014
RT @Midnight_bliss: At the Senedd #SWAT protest against service closures in Withybush Hospital #Cardiffbay #Pembrokeshire #scbu http://t.co…— @ProducerOllie 05 March 2014
Save Withybush Action Team Chairman Dr Chris Overton, who is in Cardiff, has posted on Facebook that Welsh Health Minister Mark Drakeford has "refused to see me today, no reason given."
Save Withybush Action Team Member Christina Link, tells Western Telegraph: "The proposed changes in my view are dangerous for pregnant woman in Pembrokeshire, leaving them without any back up.
"It's 33 miles door to door to Carmarthen. Emergency treatment needs to happen within an hour.
"Most people in Pembrokeshire can get to Withybush within that time. People have been putting the argument there will be helicopters available to transfer women but at the moment those helicopters are not able to deal with pregnant women.
"Many emergency situations surrounding birth - haemorrhage , cord prolapse - need to be treated within half an hour. Our greatest concern is that the changes will cause deaths."
RT @RebeccaEvansAM: Pleased to have secured a meeting between the Health Minister and Withybush campaigners this morning. http://t.co/7ysdj…— @tonywales396 05 March 2014
Mel and Jill Wilcox are among those travelling to Cardiff.
Mel: "We believe in this cause. Unless we make a stand, the hospital is going to disappear, isn't it? If it wasn't for SCBU, our granddaughter daisy might not be here.
We want to be positive about this protest. We think they are making a big mistake and we want to rectify it."
Jill: "When my son's partner Sarah went through her pregnancy there weren't any problems. But as daisy was being born she swallowed some fluid and needed special emergency treatment. It took half an hour to get her stabilised.
Five minutes can be a matter of life or death, not the 40 minutes it takes to get to Carmarthen."
Mel: "People don't think that problems are a common occurrence , but our daughter had to have an emergency Caesarian at the last moment after a normal pregnancy."
The picture they hold is of son Martin, Sarah and baby Daisy.
Protester Sanchita Kundu, speaking to the Western Telegraph en route to Cardiff, says: "I don't think this issue is about not having enough money, I think it is something else.
"When I had my baby, I learnt that a baby's condition can deteriorate so rapidly. Whatever the financial problems, you can't deny people their basic needs.
"Healthcare is one of those needs. What makes them think this decision is right?"
RT @RonnieJob: Good luck to campaigners from Withybush, protesting closure of baby unit, at Senedd today. Fight all NHS cuts! http://t.co/v…— @Dani87Do 05 March 2014
On route to Cardiff to save #SCBU at Withybush!! Come on and hear us roar!!!— @Dani87Do 05 March 2014
Some photographs from this morning as protesters met the buses to Cardiff:
Protesters are on their way to Cardiff to take the strength of feeling about the controversial proposed changes to Withybush Hospital to the heart of the Welsh Government.
Hundreds are packed onto buses that picked up all across Pembrokeshire. The protest is expected to begin at around 11.30am.
Western Telegraph reporter Jenny Hanson is travelling with the protesters and will provide updates here.
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