Swansea hospital faces axe amid plan to shake-up health service

A SWANSEA hospital may be axed under plans to centre more health services out in the community. The future of Fairwood Hospital is again coming under the spotlight as part of talks over the next fortnight.

The future of the hospital has been in doubt for a number of years, with campaigners fighting to keep it open.

A moratorium from the Assembly on community hospitals looked to have safeguarded its future.

But now staff, members of health watchdog Swansea Community Health Council, political leaders, including councillors and AMs, and the public will all be briefed on the proposals.

Health bosses say no firm decision will be reached until March, and that any change will form part of a wider plan to build-up primary community services closer to people’s homes.

An Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board spokeswoman said £1.1 million of investment had been committed to the development of intermediate care teams in the community — reducing the need for people to go to hospital.

Alex Howells, director of primary care and mental health services, pledged that if the health board was to look to close the facility, it would be subject to a full public consultation and the 20 staff would be re- deployed elsewhere.

She said: “Bearing in mind discussions over Fairwood in the past, it would be a bit disingenuous to say there is not going to be a consultation on the future.

“That discussion has to focus on services and how to develop the services we need. Over the past three or four years, these are things we were able to achieve.

“It’s important to provide services to meet needs in an individual way.”

Ms Howells said the move towards more community- based health services was previously discussed with the councillors’ forum, and ABM had asked to reopen the debate this month.

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“We have asked to go back in February and go into the community-based services agenda in detail, and to talk about what that means for the future of Fairwood Hospital,” she added.

“We haven’t got a specific plan to close Fairwood — we are looking at plans in a general sense. We want people to understand we are very keen to have this discussion to develop these models of care.”

She said ABM was not looking to reduce the availability of services.

Fairwood currently has around 10 patients in the 19-bed facility, the majority of which are waiting for home care packages to be allocated.

Fears for Fairwood first surfaced back in May 2005.

Originally, the plan to shut the facility was designed to help save £800,000 — and sparked a petition.

Ms Howells said she did not believe the Assembly moratorium, which was designed to protect community hospitals, was still applicable to Fairwood.

“The moratorium referred to closing community hospitals without any viable alternatives in place,” she added. “The health community has to demonstrate if they close a community hospital a service is not being taken. Community hospitals have a role.”