Demonstration Over City’s Health Services

Campaigners have marched through Swansea carrying a coffin to highlight concerns about the future of the city’s health services. From the Guildhall to the city centre, they waved placards in support of keeping neurosurgery at Morriston.

The protest was also against proposals to close Fairwood Hospital and a ward at Hill House hospital. The closures are part of a £12m Swansea NHS Trust recovery plan. Proposals to relocate neurosurgery are under review.

Both health organisations behind the proposals claim the changes will improve patient care. But one woman attending the protest claimed having neurosurgery at Morriston Hospital had saved her husband’s life. Marlene Turner’s husband Victor was attacked in a road rage incident two years ago, and received treatment there for his brain injuries. She said: “If my husband had had to go to Cardiff, no way would he have survived, definitely not.”

Health Commission Wales (HCW) has said the decision to end neurosurgery at Morriston and centralise it in Cardiff was based “solely on improving patient care”. But speaking at the protest, Pat Dwan at Unison said the move could cost lives. “To send the neuroscience to Cardiff means that it’s going to affect people all down the M4 corridor,” he added.

Swansea NHS Trust which is behind the proposals to close Fairwood Hospital said some patients could be better cared for in their own homes, while those who needed hospital beds would still get one.

Swansea Local Health Board is also backing the plans, but some staff have claimed elderly and vulnerable patients would be “at risk,” and the Swansea Community Health Council is contesting the proposals.

Representatives from the main political parties were at the protest which was held five days before the assembly election. Peter Black, the Liberal Democrat regional candidate for South Wales West, said people were unhappy about the proposed ward and hospital closure, and plans to move adult neurosurgery.

“We believe that that will undermine the major trauma centre there. It will put lives at risk because of the extra travelling times involved, and we’re adamant that that service should not be moved,” he said.

Leighton Veale, the Labour candidate, said: “We believe that HCW made a mistake in their recommendation, and we want to show our strength of feeling. I think it is important that people come together in Swansea, and make the case for Swansea. Obviously as a Labour Party locally, we’re very much in favour of keeping neurosurgery at Morriston Hospital.”

Plaid Cymru’s regional candidate Bethan Jenkins said: “Plaid was the only party who voted unanimously against moving neurosurgery to Cardiff. “If you want to get a government that will retain neurosurgery in Swansea, then vote for Plaid Cymru on 3 May, and that is a pledge that we will make to the people of Swansea.”

Conservative candidate Alun Cairns said a move would be “wholly unacceptable”. “It is far too far for people in west Wales to travel… to get patients there in front of the neurosurgeons would take too much time, and it simply puts patient care at risk, and we’re not happy with that,” he added.