Withybush Hospital has closed more than 60 per cent of its beds and closed six wards after the discovery of Reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac) and work to remedy the problem could continue into 2025.

Since the discovery of Raac following a safety survey last May 122 of Withybush’s 199 beds have closed. Hywel Dda Health Board says 83 of these have been moved to South Pembrokeshire Hospital.

Last month the health board declared a major internal incident.

The health board says that so far defective planks, which could collapse at any time, have been found in all six wards surveyed on the second floor and in areas on the ground floor and kitchen.

As a result of this Wards 7, 8/Coronary Care Unit, 9,10 ,11/Acute Stroke Unit and 12 are now closed with props in place to hold up the crumbling concrete.

Western Telegraph:

An area of Outpatients is also currently closed pending further survey works and is likely to require significant repair work before it can be reoccupied.

The kitchen is also closed with temporary service provided from the dining room while a field kitchen is being established which should be ready by November.

Some corridors and areas on the ground floor have also been identified as having RAAC planks present and needing repair work. Raac planks were commonly used in construction of public buildings between 1960 and 1995.

The concrete planks that incorporate bubbles of air, making the planks less heavy and therefore easier and cheaper to transport and handle.

5,000 Raac planks were found in Withybush following a Welsh Government notification that required all health boards and trusts to determine whether they were present in buildings.

The health board says that corrective works are under way in Wards 9 and 12, with work on Ward 7 due to start this month.

Western Telegraph: The ill-treatment is allaged to have taken place at Withybush HospitalWithybush Hospital

Props have been put in place in ground floor locations to support reoccupation where this is safe to do so.

However, the hospital is still getting to grips with the scale of the problem. Detailed plank by plank surveys on the remaining three wards which will be completed next month with surveys on the building expected to continue until April 2024.

The health board anticipates that work to make areas safe could continue into 2025; work on the wards to address critical and high-risk planks should be completed by summer 2024, while work on the ground floor could continue into 2025.

Further remedial work in the future cannot be ruled out as planks that are currently deemed medium and low will be regularly surveyed.

In the meantime, Withybush’s staff and patients have been relocated to safe parts of the hospital, other sites in Pembrokeshire or enabled to go home.

Non-acute inpatients have been moved to South Pembrokeshire Hospital, with the health board saying that the provision there means that the total bed loss at Withbush stands at 39.

Some outpatients’ services have also been relocated elsewhere within Pembrokeshire or across the health board area.

Western Telegraph: ‘Enormous strain’ on Withybush as hospital battles with RAAC catastrophe

The health board has confirmed that only ‘a very low level of elective surgery is currently being delivered at Withybush while the survey and repair work is carried out. Where possible, patients are being treated elsewhere within the Health Board.

The board says that it is trying to keep patients within Pembrokeshire where possible and optimising use of all non RAAC affected areas in Withybush.

In anticipation of winter pressures, a health board spokesperson said: “Our hospital and community teams are working closely together to provide effective alternatives to the reduced capacity at Withybush, ensuring our patients are cared for in a place that best suits their needs. This includes more beds and treatments in our community hospitals. Where possible, we are trying to keep patients within Pembrokeshire.”

Western Telegraph: Withybush Hospital, Haverfordwest

The Welsh Government has approved £12.8 million funding to address the critical and high-risk planks at Withybush over a period of two financial years. The health board says that this is enough for a short-term solution but more cash will need to be found for the long term.

“This will be enough in the short term to make wards and departments safe but will require further funding for a long-term solution,” said the spokesperson.