The 'puffin ward' paediatric unit at Withybush Hospital will be suspended this evening (Saturday, March 21), to be converted into a minor injuries unit during the coronavirus pandemic.

Families with children suffering minor injuries will still be able to access care at Withybush via the MIU but those children with acute illness will be directed to Glangwili General Hospital in Carmarthen.

In a statement the Health Board said: "As part of our preparations for managing the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic in the Hywel Dda area the health board has begun to enact plans for all of our acute hospitals and other care facilities to ensure that we can keep patients safe while continuing to provide the highest standards of care possible for our population.

"Each of our four hospitals in Aberystwyth, Carmarthen, Haverfordwest and Llanelli is developing plans which involve providing designated areas for an expected increase in patients who test positive for COVID-19 and require hospital admission.

"To do this, some services may need to move or change temporarily to allow us to provide clinical care for these patients in a more appropriate environment, while also ensuring that other essential services continue to run as smoothly as possible.

"We will also be putting temporary buildings or tents in place and people will be appropriately signposted to these as they become operational."

Dr Phil Kloer, medical director and deputy chief executive at Hywel Dda, said: “Firstly I want to reassure our communities as far as possible that our number one priority is to keep you, the public, safe and to provide as much continuity of care as we possibly can.

"Our staff, both clinical and non-clinical, have been working around the clock for several weeks now to get ready for this and I would like to express my deepest gratitude to them and to thank the public, our partners and stakeholders for their understanding and patience.

“We need to act now and what we are doing is in line with other health boards and trusts up and down the country as our NHS seeks to manage the COVID-19 pandemic.

"This means that some aspects of care may have to temporarily move, change or reduce and the public need to be prepared for that. We will continue to keep our communities, staff and stakeholders informed about any changes every step of the way and will provide further updates soon.”

The health board spokesperson added: "Over the coming days, weeks and months we will also be implementing changes to other care facilities to help us deal with increased cases of COVID-19 patients and the latest measures follow our postponement of non-urgent operations and outpatient appointments last week, new visiting restrictions and access arrangements for community care facilities.

"The Health Board is committed to keeping our communities, staff and stakeholders informed about any changes every step of the way and will provide further updates soon."