This is an article for the Glamorgan Gazette
So now we know. The proposals for the reconfiguration of health services in South Wales have been published and are now out to consultation.
I agree with many others that it should not have been necessary to pitch hospital against hospital, community against community for the retention of key services such as Accident and Emergency, maternity and in-patient children's services. However, we are where we are, and as one of the Assembly Members representing this area it is my duty to do what I can to defend local services.
It is vital that we are not complacent. These proposals are not set in stone. There will be a consultation period between 23 May and 19 July during which many representations will be made and it is possible that another could be chosen. We have to make the case for the Princess of Wales Hospital.
Princess of Wales Hospital provides services to 160,000 people in the Bridgend area, but also to the populations of both the Western Vale, and a significant part of Neath Port Talbot.
I consider that any move to downgrade the hospital would bring about a considerable worsening of the service provided by the Welsh NHS in this area and beyond. Indeed as the programme document makes clear, such a step would impose a significant travel burden upon patients and their families, in addition to reducing the breadth and level of provision available to a significant proportion of the local and regional population.
The nearness and ease of access from the M4, and the A48, the Ogwr Valley, the eastern part of Neath Port Talbot, Bridgend, and the Western Vale remains of great significance. Moreover, Princess of Wales Hospital is almost equidistant from the two level one trauma centres of Morriston, and University of Wales Hospitals thus providing better coverage.
Maintaining the present ease of access for the above catchment to effective consultant-led paediatric, obstetric, and gynaecological services that the hospital presently provides is of vital importance. The hospital site is well-served by public transport, and is close to major concentrations of people in Bridgend, Maesteg, and the surrounding communities.
Obstetrics in particular has a high reputation judging by my postbag, and it has been pointed out to me that as the present seven-room delivery suite is often full, any downgrading of the unit would mean at risk expectant mothers travelling further than is either necessary or desirable.
The reputation of the staff in these areas is deservedly excellent, and recruitment at all levels to these areas, and to the hospital generally, is more buoyant than at other hospitals in South Wales. These are services worth fighting for.