Rumours that the issue of downgrading maternity services at Bronglais would be reopened have been confirmed to be true by the Minister, who seems to have accepted Hywel Dda Health Board’s view that there could be a case to have a midwife-led unit at Bronglais.
A scheduled ministerial statement on 21 January on maternity services at Withybush Hospital unexpectedly included proposals from the specialist panel to downgrade Bronglais too with a view to centralising services at Carmarthen.
People in mid Wales will rightly be angered at this news. The Minister only assured me in September that his review into maternity services in Pembrokeshire would have no effect on Bronglais. When he commissioned the review he said,
“As far as neonatal services are concerned, the report does not re-open the issue of Bronglais hospital. The issue of services at Bronglais hospital has not been referred to me by the community health council because it has reached an agreement with the local health board on the future of services at that hospital. Nothing in what I have said today should be taken as casting any doubt on that agreement for opening up an issue that has not been referred to me for consideration.”
When I questioned him yesterday, the Minister told me that no final decision would be made before the outcome of the review into the long-term future of healthcare in mid Wales, and that any change would be dependent on better arrangements for the rapid transfer of patients by helicopter. But people will scarcely be reassured by such words. Bronglais serves expectant mothers from across a wide area – a centralised service at Carmarthen is unacceptable.
If and when the Government decide that this is the option they want to pursue, we should expect a full consultation. Otherwise, the Health Board would be in breach of its own guidelines. The Health Minister and Hywel Dda Board should be in no doubt that people in our area will fight to preserve a proper maternity and obstetric service in Aberystwyth.