Hywel Dda University Health Board is appealing for public support as its hospitals are operating under extreme pressure. Whilst high levels of activity are usual in the winter, this year presents the extra challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, including a shortage of clinical staff.
The health board has responded to outbreaks of the virus in all of its acute general hospitals, resulting in closures of some wards in all acute hospitals in the Hywel Dda area during the past month.
Meanwhile, the health board has announced the transfer of all patients being treated at Llandovery Community Hospital, to Amman Valley Hospital, in Glanamman, near Ammanford, due to a number of staff, including nurses, at the two hospitals selfisolating after testing positive for COVID-19. This led to significant constraints on the workforce at both sites, which meant sustaining both community nursing and community hospital services became too challenging.
Community transmission of the virus is also very high across all three counties. In the last seven days, the case incidence rate in Carmarthenshire was 305.7 per 100,000 population, with a rate of 165.1 per 100,000 in Ceredigion and 170.1 per 100,000 in Pembrokeshire. Because of these challenges, the health board is in a very difficult position as it cannot safely staff all of beds it would otherwise expect to have open at this point in the year. Additionally, it has had to transfer some staff and patients to field hospitals in Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire.
The health board is therefore in need the public’s help to ease pressure on the system.
Andrew Carruthers, Director of Operations at Hywel Dda University Health Board, said: “A number of vaccines are being developed and yesterday’s news about the approval of one of these is a hugely welcome and positive development. But, it is critical for the public to understand that we are still at a very dangerous point in the cycle of the pandemic and there is still some way to go before we can return to normality.
“We are dealing with significantly more cases of COVID-19 in our hospitals than we previously had in the spring. Unfortunately, this has also affected our workforce and severely hampered our capacity and escalation plans.
“While we are confident that the number of declared hospital outbreaks is now going down, and that we are able to deep clean and re-open wards safely again, the single biggest issue we face remains staff sickness. This is having a critical effect on our ability to provide care for all but those with emergency / urgent medical conditions, or those who are accessing cancer services. We need to ensure that the services we provide are safe and prioritised in terms of clinical need, so that staff are operating safely.
“I want to be very clear that we will get through this, but we need the public’s help now to stop onward transmission of the virus in our communities and give our workforce a chance to recover, so that they are able to provide safe and effective care for our patients.”