HAVING witnessed hundreds of potential voters march on the Senedd yesterday, Labour's two Parliamentary candidates in Pembrokeshire have called on members of their own party in the Welsh Government to hit the pause button over controversial service cuts to Withybush Hospital.
Around 700 people travelled by bus, car and train to protest loudly against plans including the removal of 24 hour paediatric care and the closure of the special care baby unit at Withybush.
Major concerns also remain over the introduction of a midwife-led maternity unit at Withybush with just three beds and the serious danger of having to reach Carmarthen's Glangwili hospital during emergencies in childbirth.
In interventions that are unlikely to be welcomed among Labour ministers in Cardiff, both Delyth Evans and Paul Miller have urged the Health Minister Mark Drakeford to come out and assure the Pembrokeshire public that there will be no further reduction in essential services at Withybush.
Both Parliamentary candidates even referred to Withybush services being reduced “by stealth”.
While health is a devolved issue, the continuing downgrading of services at Withybush Hospital is likely to be among the major issues debated in Pembrokeshire ahead of the General Election in May 2015.
Concerns remain that the future 24/7 status of the accident and emergency department will be in doubt if the changes go-ahead.
Ms Evans said: “After yesterday’s demonstration there can be no doubt in the minds of the Welsh Government about the strength of feeling in Pembrokeshire about the proposed changes at Withybush.
“There is only one way to alleviate people’s legitimate concerns about the future of their local health services.
“The Minister must make an unequivocal statement that no changes will be implemented until adequate emergency transport is in place, and that there will be no further reduction in essential services at Withybush whatsoever.
“We cannot accept a gradual reduction of our local health service by stealth. There has to be a commitment to maintain a fully functioning hospital for the people of Pembrokeshire.”
Mr Miller, who will fight for the Preseli Pembrokeshire seat, said: “People are rightly concerned that because of our geography they will not be able to access centralised services in an emergency and the Minister must pledge today, not to allow Hywel Dda to implement any changes whatever, unless he is 100% satisfied that adequate emergency transport is available.
“While I do accept, that in some instances patient outcomes can be improved when services are centralised, local hospitals will always remain the first port of call in an emergency.”
Mr Miller, who is also the Labour leader on Pembrokeshire county council, added: “We cannot accept a gradual reduction of our local services by stealth and Withybush Hospital must always remain a fully functioning District General Hospital. I have made clear to the Minister, on both occasions when we have met this year, that I will vigorously oppose any moves which reduce the current, 24/7 A&E cover at Withybush General Hospital and I will never accept that any less than a 24 hour service is safe for the residents of Pembrokeshire.”