The growing bed-blocking problem across North Wales has prompted calls to re-open community hospital beds.
Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board closed community hospitals in Llangollen, Flint, Prestatyn and Blaenau Ffestiniog last year, despite local campaigners warning that the centralisation plan would cause problems.
Plaid Cymru North Wales AM Llyr Gruffydd said: “Only last week I called for an empty ward at Ruthin community hospital to be re-opened to cope with the pressures being put on our main three hospitals. This week the crisis has reached boiling point with non-urgent surgery being cancelled to cope with the pressure on beds. This is completely unacceptable, especially as this is not a winter crisis or as a result of a superbug infection.
“Senior Betsi Cadwaladr managers have, in their rush to centralise, failed to realise the importance of community hospitals as a way to ease pressure on our district general hospitals. We need those 50 beds lost last year to be re-opened to cope with the crisis and provide ongoing community care for patients.
“If NHS managers won’t respond to this simple solution, the Welsh Health Minister must intervene. It’s not a seasonal or temporary problem, it’s a structural crisis that has been allowed to develop under his government’s watch.”
The North Wales Health Alliance was formed last year to fight the closures programme and spokesperson Mabon ap Gwynfor said: “We warned Betsi Cadwaladr that closing dozens of beds without replacing them would cause problems. If anything, it’s worse than we feared. The pressures on the district general hospitals over the past year have seen ambulances backed up and unable to offload patients, beds have been blocked by patients unable to go home and the health service has become more remote from patients and communities.
“This could have been avoided if the health board had listened to campaigners, who understand the value of having health services at a community level. Re-opening community hospital wards makes sense and we hope it will prompt the new Betsi Cadwaladr chairman and chief executive to re-think the entire centralisation agenda.”