Dave Reid, Socialist Party Wales
Cwm Taf Health Board has announced that it intends to retain a 24-hour accident and emergency department at Royal Glamorgan Hospital. This represents a huge victory for health campaigners in the Rhondda Cynon Taf area, and a setback for the Welsh government’s plans to downgrade the hospital and close the A&E department there.
The board has announced that it has successfully recruited enough medical staff to work in the department, after claiming that it was not possible to find consultants to replace the current consultant who is retiring. In a Senedd (Welsh parliament) hearing it admitted that there had not been much of an effort to recruit staff.
It’s quite clear now, as Socialist Party Wales warned, that the health board had been running down the department as part of the Welsh Labour government’s South Wales Programme of closing local hospital services and centering them at a few hospitals, some of which were very difficult for patients to access.
The Welsh government hoped that, faced with a staff crisis in the A&E at the hospital, it could finally force through the closure of the department which was originally planned in 2013. But the sheer scale of the campaign of opposition has forced the health board and the Welsh government to retreat, and to actively attempt to recruit consultants.
Spearheaded by the Save Royal Glamorgan Hospital A&E campaign, thousands of working-class people across Rhondda Cynon Taf have thrown themselves into the defence of their hospital. The campaign has involved the active participation of hospital workers, doctors and nurses at the hospital and patient groups.
Over 1,000 hospital workers signed the Unite union petition. Communities across the Rhondda valleys were festooned with the orange bows of the campaign.
Over 500 rallied mid-week at the Senedd to pressure it to pass a motion in support of the A&E, in defiance of the first minister and the health minister. Another 500 massed outside the meeting of the health board, with over 100 pouring into the meeting itself.
Even the floods that have caused over £100 million damage in the area did not dampen the mood – they intensified the anger.
Now we must make sure that Cwm Taf Health Board comes good with its promise to keep the A&E, that it is adequately staffed and resourced, and that all the other services that have been cut or threatened with being cut from the hospital are retained or returned: maternity care, baby care and children’s hospital care.
And the Welsh government must officially rescind the South Wales Programme and ensure that decent hospital facilities are readily available to all our communities.
No more health cuts!