THE First Minister has weighed in to an argument over hospital service changes in North Wales.
Responding to a question from North Wales Conservative AM Antoinette Sandbach in the Senedd yesterday, Carwyn Jones said he would be taking the final decision on the future of long term neo-natal care in North Wales.
Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) has given the green light to plans to move level three neo-natal care from Wrexham Maelor Hospital to Arrowe Park, Wirral, in January.
On Monday health watchdog the Community Health Council said it would not formally object, despite strong opposition from campaigners.
But the CHC did agree to pass on objections on to Health Minister Lesley Griffiths, who is also AM for Wrexham.
However, in a surprise announcement yesterday the First Minister revealed he, and not Ms Griffiths, would be making the final decision.
Wrexham Maelor’s neo-natal unit is in Ms Griffiths’ own constituency, he said, a factor which could cloud her impartiality.
A spokesman for campaigning group North Wales Health Alliance said: “This has been an exercise in buck-passing that still isn’t over.
“Firstly, the Health Minister passed the buck to the health board, saying change was inevitable but forcing them to decide on what changes.
“Then we were told the Community Health Council would intervene on behalf of the community, only for them to pass the buck back sharply to the minister.
“Now today the First Minister has said he will make the final decision. Has the Health Minister bottled her responsibility and passed the buck to him?
“Whatever the case, it’s been a sorry mess that has left various health boards, health councils and politicians scrabbling to dig themselves out of a huge hole of their own making.
“All this could have been avoided if they had listened to the people of North Wales in the first place.”
The spokesman added Mr Jones should call in the entire plan “including the proposals to close community hospitals and centralise services which are happening as we speak, even though the consultation process is clearly not over”.
North Wales Plaid AM Llyr Gruffydd said: “Carwyn Jones’s intervention in the health debate in North Wales shows the pressure coming from local community groups and other campaigners is finally paying off.
“We’ve seen huge marches in Flint, Llandudno and Blaenau Ffestiniog with the promise of more to come if these closures and loss of services aren’t reversed.
“The First Minister should act decisively to safeguard local health services rather than see communities and specialist services being abandoned by a health board that has lost its way.
“The political pressure put on the health board has been intolerable and has led to some appalling decisions that the First Minister must now undo.”