The Welsh Health Minister, Mark Drakeford AM has rejected calls from local MP Stephen Crabb to come to Pembrokeshire to meet with him and members of the Save Withybush Action Team (SWAT).
Earlier this month, Stephen Crabb wrote to Mark Drakeford urging him to meet with SWAT and other local people to reconsider the Welsh Government’s reckless decision to cut vital maternity services from Withybush Hospital.
In his response, Mark Drakeford said that he had already received a large number of representations from SWAT and that he felt ‘a direct meeting between us will serve no useful purpose’. He also commented that a meeting might be ‘difficult’ for him because a supporter of SWAT is seeking to instigate a judicial review into the matter.
Stephen had urged the Health Minister to meet with him to reconsider the evidence base used to make the decision, arguing that cutting vital services from a rural and geographically unique area such as Pembrokeshire would put lives at risk. In his reply the Health Minister refused to meet with Stephen, suggesting instead that questions regarding the specific details of the consultation would be better directed to the expert neonatologist on the Panel, who is based in London.
Speaking from Haverfordwest, Stephen said:
“It’s appalling that the Welsh Health Minister sees ‘no useful purpose’ in meeting with the very people his reckless decision will affect. If the Prime Minister can make the time to visit Pembrokeshire to see the situation here after the storms then the Welsh Health Minister should be able to make the journey from Cardiff to Withybush.
It also worries me that the Health Minister does not feel capable of answering my questions about the evidence base he used to make the decision to cut vital services from our local hospital. If he cannot answer these questions, how can he say that he has made a safe decision?
I am also concerned that the chief neonatologist who is responsible for this decision is based in London. We have argued all along that while centralising services may work in towns and cities, it is simply dangerous in rural communities such as Pembrokeshire. Did the committee the Welsh Government relied on to make these decisions really understand what it is like to live in a remote area where geographic challenges make it difficult to get to the nearest hospital at the best of times?
This response from Mark Drakeford makes me more concerned than ever that a grave mistake has been made without proper understanding of the consequences for local people . I will be writing to the chief neonatologist to arrange a meeting so that Pembrokeshire can finally get the answers it deserves.”