Decision Over Hospital Delayed

The future of a popular Swansea hospital has now been pushed back until after next month’s Assembly elections, it has emerged.Swansea health chiefs will take part in the final round of key talks on Fairwood Hospital and ward one at Hill House Hospital after people go to the polls on May 3.

Campaigners had predicted the controversial final decision would be delayed until the next Assembly Government is formed. Now they have ben proved correct.

Fairwood nursing support officer Della Davies, aged 31, of Pontarddulais, said: “I’m not surprised at all but I am disappointed and I hope this decision backfires on Health Minister Brian Gibbons. “He has put this back until after the elections, we are just hoping people see through that.”

Dozens of balloons are being set off at the Fairwood Hospital site on Saturday to mark the loss of beds and the number of patients who have been through its doors since consultation ended on the closure plan.

A decision had been expected to be made at the end of March. But further talks between Swansea Local Health Board and health watchdog Swansea Community Health Council have now been pencilled in for next month. The 20-week timetable for a decision was suspended by the NHS regional office to allow the talks to take place.

Sandra Owen, chief officer of Swansea Community Health Council, said if an agreement was not reached at the next meeting, the issue would be referred to the Assembly’s Health Minister. “There will be one more final meeting to resolve any issues,” she added. “We have been given a few dates, the meeting will be some time next month after May 3.”

Jeff Baker, regional organiser for Unison, said he did not believe the LHB and CHC would be able to reach agreement unless a compromise was reached. Mr Baker said: “They have met 12 times and on each occasion the CHC has told the LHB it does not support the closures.

“If the CHC do not agree and the local authority do not agree and the trade unions do not agree – there is no agreement. I think the minister has either decided or thinks there is still scope for an agreement, but there can never be an agreement if the LHB or trust is not moving. What they should do is run the team of specialist nurses in parallel with Fairwood Hospital and ward one at Hill House Hospital for 18 months and the proof would be there.”

Dr Gibbons, Health Minister and the Assembly candidate for Aberavon, said he had not been involved in the timetable for decision. “It is purely a matter for local health bodies such as Swansea CHC and LHB,” he added. “I have no part to play in setting the decision making timetable, and it is very important that this should be the case because, in the end, if local health organisations cannot agree on a way forward the decision could end on my desk. The decision has nothing to do with the Assembly elections.