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Questions remain about Glangwili’s £25m funding

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THE WELSH GOVERNMENT has announced its approval of £25m of funding for upgraded neonatal care at Glangwili Hospital, only a week before the Board is due to consult on radical changes to clinical services across west Wales.

The announcement was made during a visit to Glangwili by Cabinet Secretary for Health, Vaughan Gething.

Speaking during the visit, the Cabinet Secretary​ said: “I’m delighted to approve £25million Welsh Government funding for the further redevelopment of Glangwili Hospital’s obstetric and neonatal facilities.

“This funding will improve the clinical quality, safety and innovation at the site. It will mean better access to services for patients and their parents, as well as improving the well-being of staff. This investment will address the urgent areas of concern highlighted in the Royal Colleges’ report on maternity services in Hywel Dda Health Board.

“This should significantly improve the patient experience and accommodation for families and, as it is a larger unit, may also reduce the risk of families having to travel out of our area for care due to capacity reasons.”

Hywel Dda University Health Board Chief Executive, Steve Moore​,​ said: “We welcome this news as women, children and their families deserve to have better accommodation than we are currently able to offer at Glangwili Hospital. We hope this provides our population with confidence that we will now proceed with pace to make these improvements.”

“The £25m investment in obstetric and neonatal facilities at Glangwili, west Wales’ most central General Hospital, is obviously welcome news,” said Cllr Alun Lenny, Mayor of Carmarthen.

“As the maternity ward was declared ‘not fit for purpose’ by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health three years ago, providing mothers and babies with a safer birthing facility and specialist care is long overdue, if you’ll excuse the pun!

“However, some questions must be asked. Although Vaughan Gething refers to the well-being of staff, the Hywel Dda Health Board has a chronic recruitment problem and spends over £20m annually on agency staff. The Welsh Government must give an assurance that revenue funding will be provided to staff the new facility. There’s little point in investing millions of pounds if the unit can’t be staffed properly, or piles more financial pressure on the Health Board – already £70m overspent – if they have to employ more expensive agency staff.

“The timing of this announcement and the Health Secretary’s visit is rather curious, coming as it does a week before Hywel Dda Health Board announces its options for a “once in a lifetime” transformation of clinical care in west Wales. Central to the ‘leaked’ options are plans for a new hospital near the Carmarthenshire/Pembrokeshire border.

“How could that be justified when £25m is being invested at Glangwili? Carmarthen is central to west Wales and it makes sense to locate urgent clinical care here.

“On a different note, I’m sure that residents living near Glangwili Hospital, outpatients, visitors and motorists using the A484, will welcome the provision of 59 new car parking spaces, which should help alleviate the chronic parking situation at the hospital.”

The £25m investment at the hospital is a hangover from the last round of changes and cuts to clinical services, which saw consultant-led obstetric services stripped from Withybush Hospital, with assurances made that facilities at Glangwili were fit and ready to accept more patients.

Shortly after services were transferred, a report from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health stated that facilities at Glangwili were not up to the standard required of a modern consultant-led unit and that significant sums of money were required to bring them up to snuff, stating: ‘The Glangwili labour ward is not fit for purpose; it is too small, with insufficient facilities and provides a poor environment for women and staff.  The increased numbers of women using the unit, including those with high-risk pregnancies from Pembrokeshire has put additional pressure on the staff with two culturally very different teams learning to work together in cramped and difficult conditions.’

The Board accepted the Royal College’s recommendations and – due to the requirements of making out a business case to the Welsh Government – it has taken two years to secure funding to carry out the work recommended in September 2015 to deal with the fall out of the last reorganisation. That business plan predated the Board’s current and ongoing intention to reorganise west Wales’ healthcare in what is widely being trailed as ‘once in a generation’ change.

Work is expected to start before the autumn and the aim is for the scheme to be complete by 2020, by which time the future of service provision should be decided. It appears that investing £25m at Glangwili in these circumstances would be unlikely to proceed to completion of the project.

We asked the Welsh Government whether or not the £25m investment was certain to proceed, but did not get a reply to our enquiry.

We put the same point to the Health Board, who told us: “We note there has been concern that the delivery of this capital project may be adversely affected by our forthcoming consultation on the future of health services in the Hywel Dda University Health Board area which, subject to Board decision, is due to launch on Thursday, April 19.

“We would like to reassure our population that our business of providing healthcare to the very best of our abilities continues – this is the right thing to do and what our patients deserve and should rightly expect from the NHS.

“We cannot pre-judge what the outcomes of our proposed consultation may be, and even if there is change to Glangwili OR Withybush Hospital in the future, this may be several years ahead. We continually evolve and improve our services, responding to advances in medicine and technology, and this will continue.”

Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire AM Angela Burns, the Conservative’s Shadow Health Secretary, said: “Only in January the Cabinet Secretary announced £1.2m for the Board to put together a business case for further improvements to the neonatal and maternity services at Glangwili. The business case is supposed to go out for public consultation and is expected to be received by the Welsh Government this summer.

“This – very welcome – £25m is to make headway on the promise made by the Welsh Government years ago that the sacrifice of the Haverfordwest SCBU would result in a level two Special Care Baby Unit and provide better maternity facilities at Glangwili.

“It’s about time, but I have to wonder whether this is just easing the way for potential further radical changes and whether the money will still head to Glangwili if the reconfiguration proposals pull services away from the hospital.”

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Almost 100 jobs to go at Calsonic Llanelli

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A MAJOR Llanelli employer is to shed almost a quarter of its employees following what it describes as a ‘significant drop-off in sales’.

Calsonic Kansei, based says that continuing political and economic uncertainty have contributed to its decision to lay off 95 workers at its Lleithri Road factory on the outskirts of the town.

Calsonic were offered £4.4m from the Welsh Government to create 88 jobs at the plant late last year.

Llanelli’s local AM, Lee Waters, the Welsh Government’s Deputy Minister for the Economy and Nia Griffith MP issued a joint statement about the jobs blow.

Lee Waters AM said “Nia Griffith and I will be doing what we can to work with the company, trade unions and other employers in the area to help the workers directly affected. And the Welsh Government will be extending the taskforce helping workers at Schaeffler to offer practical support.”

“Calsonic were offered significant Welsh Government help to develop new products at the end of last year, and we will continue to do what we can to help create a sustainable future for the site, through what is clearly a troubling period.”

Nia Griffith MP said “The next month will be a difficult period for the workers and their families at Calsonic, both Lee and I are ready to do whatever we can to help anyone affected. Alongside working directly with the factory staff and the trade unions, I’ll be using my voice in Parliament to ask the UK Government to match Welsh Government’s ongoing commitment to the plant and the workforce.”

Calsonic’s vice-president of HR for Europe, Neil O’ Brien, said: “The automotive industry is at a transitional stage, as well as being at a key point in several major vehicle ‘life cycles’, with car manufacturers developing their technologies to satisfy the ever demanding environmental legislation and moving towards autonomous and electric vehicles.

“During this period of transition, the added pressures of market instability caused by the political and economic conditions have affected our customers’ volumes and, consequently, Calsonic Kansei’s sales have seen a significant drop.

“The company intends to do everything reasonably possible to reduce the impact of this proposal on its employees.”

In January Schaeffler announced plans to close its plant in Leave-voting Llanelli with a loss of 200 skilled jobs.

Schaeffler also cited uncertainty about the UK’s economic and political future as being partially responsible for its decision.

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West Wales responds to Notre-Dame ‘tragedy’

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Notre-Dame de Paris: The large fire partially destroyed the cathedral on Monday

THE WORLD has reacted to the major fire that partially destroyed Notre-Dame Cathedral, with religious leaders of west Wales among those to have sent prayers to Paris.

The large fire on Monday (Apr 15) damaged much of the historic landmark, destroying the roof as well as the famous spire. The fire began at around 6:30pm local time (4:30pm GMT) and it took until 10am (8am GMT) on Tuesday morning for firefighters to fully extinguish the blaze. Many of the relics held in the cathedral, including the crown of thorns brought there in 1239 by St. Louis, said to be that which was placed on the head of Jesus leading up to his crucifixion, were saved by firefighters. One firefighter is said to have suffered minor injuries while tackling the fire. The cause of the fire is not yet clear, but Paris’ public prosecutor is working under the assumption that it was an accident.

Whilst the principal structure was saved, including the famed towers, the building is still seen as unstable. Prior to the fire, there was already scaffolding in place to deal with the cracks appearing in the stonework. Renovations were underway and 16 copper statues had already been removed last week.

Notre-Dame de Paris, meaning ‘Our Lady of Paris’, is one of the most widely recognised symbols of France, and is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The site of the cathedral is thought to have been of religious significance dating back as far as Roman Gaul. The construction of the modern church began in 1163, and the cathedral is considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture.

Already hundreds of millions of euros have been donated towards the reconstruction of the site, as people across the world have reacted to the news and sent both prayers and funds to Paris.

Bishop of Menevia Tom Burns said: “For a thousand years it has stood as a beacon of prayer and hope. But what a tragedy struck Paris and the French nation on Monday evening at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame. It is a beautiful creation that resides at the very heart of French life and in the hearts of French people wherever they happen to be, of whatever faith or none. It has struck chords in all people of good will who have walked through its doors into an arena of peace and calm.

“Some years ago, after wondering at the flying-buttresses that supported the thick stone walls, I had entered under that roof, never conscious of the vulnerability of its wooden structure. As I saw on television on Monday evening the fire raging through the roof, and the spire disintegrating piece by piece, I felt a lump in my throat. I shared with the people of France my sense of having once touched something quite unique. For, it had been my privilege, as Bishop of HM Forces, to preach from the Cathedral’s vast pulpit on Remembrance Sunday just over a decade ago.

“Now this was another sad occasion to remember, though thankfully without any loss of life. As York Minster was resurrected from the flames some years ago, and similarly Windsor Castle in more recent times, may the experts in restoring ancient buildings combine their God-given skills to rebuilding Notre-Dame de Paris. May it rise from the ashes to fulfil its function as God’s House in this world and to re-assure us that such a building evokes belonging and inspires us to greater things. It is still greatly needed, if not even more so now.”

Fr. Liam Bradley, Parish Priest at St David and St Patrick Church in Haverfordwest, said: “We hold in our hearts and prayers those who take risks to save life and property. May God bless the skills of craftsmen and women as they undertake the task of rebuilding.

“God our Father, let the community of Paris come together in this moment of difficulty and grace, to rebuild your house and do you honour, and so provide an enduring monument of how high the human spirit can soar in the face of adversity.

“As buildings crumble, may our faith be strong; from the ashes, may new fruit be born. Through the intercession of Our Lady of Paris, may all the people of France be filled with the peace and joy of Jesus Christ, risen for us at Easter. Amen.

“St Denis – Pray for us!”

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New funding for businesses to improve key areas of county

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A NEW pot of funding has been opened up to support regeneration, business growth and job creation in key priority areas across Carmarthenshire.

The Targeted Regeneration Investment (TRI) programme is part of a Welsh Government regional scheme to drive economic development in areas deemed most in need.

Areas chosen for investment in Carmarthenshire are Llanelli Town Centre and Station Road, and Ammanford Town Centre.

Businesses can apply for funding from two main thematic funding streams – a Property Enhancement Development Grant and Sustainable Living Grant.

Projects must promote economic regeneration – creating jobs, enhancing skills and employability and creating the right environment for businesses to grow and thrive.

A Property Enhancement Development Grant provides gap funding for owners or occupiers of vacant commercial buildings to enhance frontages and bring vacant commercial floor space back into use.

Where a local need has been identified, it could also fund development projects that create new commercial floor space.

A Sustainable Living Grant supports the conversion of vacant commercial space on upper floors into new homes. It can be used alongside the Property Enhancement Development Grant, and other initiatives, to encourage mixed-use regeneration of properties.

Cllr Emlyn Dole, Council Leader and Executive Board Member for Regeneration, met Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government Hannah Blythyn in Llanelli Town Centre recently to discuss the TRI programme and other ongoing improvements to the town.

He said: “This targeted investment has potential to make a real difference in Llanelli and Ammanford, and complements the council’s on-going efforts to regenerate these important towns.

“We are pleased to be part of this regional programme that will make the most of vacant commercial space and help improve the appearance and vibrancy of our town centres.”

Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government Hannah Blythyn said: “We want to support local businesses, grow our fantastic town centres and create job opportunities in Llanelli and Ammanford. Creating more good quality commercial and retail space will play a real part in this, as will creating homes in the centre of our towns, so people can live and work centrally and contribute to the local economy.

“This fund will help to create opportunities out of empty properties and attract more people to our town centres. I look forward to seeing some exciting refurbishments, and businesses growing and prospering across in Llanelli and Ammanford as a result.”

Any businesses or applicants interested, or with a deliverable project in the priority areas identified, should contact Carmarthenshire County Council’s Economic Development Team for an initial discussion.

Contact Economic Development Coordinator, Tessa Peregrine, on TPeregrine@carmarthenshire.gov.uk or 01554 748815.

More information is available on the business section of www.carmarthenshire.gov.wales.

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