DOUBT has been cast on reasons given by a health board for not extending the use of a hospital’s new X-ray service.
An email from a senior staff member at Mold Community Hospital, seen by the Leader, said at least 50 people were waiting for X-ray appointments for the hospital’s new machine.
The machine was installed in March after campaigners raised more than £100,000.
But it is currently being used for just 22.5 hours a week.
The email outlining demand for the service comes less than a week Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) staff told a Flintshire Council meeting they needed to wait to build up a backlog of demand before the X-ray machine could be used full time.
The email, sent to Cllr Carolyn Thomas on June 3 by a staff member who wished to remain anonymous, said the next available appointment was on June 16.
It said: “Today [June 3] we have at least 50 appointments waiting to be made. Mold could easily work full-time – 37.5hours per week – easily fulfilling the 15 patients per session set by BCUHB.
“Deeside Hospital has slots available this afternoon but people don’t want to travel to Deeside.
“Deeside is open for 30 hours per week.”
In a meeting of Flintshire Council’s social and health care overview and scrutiny committee last week, councillors grilled health board bosses over the fact a full-time X-ray service was not currently taking place following the massive fundraising drive.
At the meeting, BCUHB bosses said they were looking at the demand and considering if and when they could provide more time slots using the new machine, and said they could not provide a time frame for extending the service.
Former Flintshire Council chairman Cllr Thomas, who used her year as chairman to help raise thousands of pounds for the X-ray machine fundraising drive, said the email proved there was obviously a massive demand.
She said: “To say they need a huge backlog in Mold – well this is one.
“The staff there have been saying that there is a need for it to be full time. I was surprised to hear a statement from scrutiny that the service and demand would have to be built up again following closure.
“This is the opposite to the information I was given that said there was already a backlog.”
Concerns were also raised by Carol Ellis, chairman of the social and health care overview and scrutiny committee.
She said her husband made an X-ray appointment in Mold, but was told he could not be seen for a month.
“When we have got lots of people waiting this amount of time I totally agree there is a need for a full time service,” she said.
“Carolyn Thomas has raised a lot of money for it and the community at large has raised a lot of money so it is very concerning.
“I don’t think the answer the health board gave at the scrutiny committee was very sufficient – it didn’t give very much information.”
Cllr Ellis said staff seemed to be available and no real reason had been given as to why the service was not full time.
She said: “There seems to be a conflict, with the health board saying there is not the need, the staff saying there is a need for and the patients saying there is a need for it.”
At last week’s meeting, several councillors had expressed their fears, with Buckley councillor Mike Peers accusing the health board of ‘pulling the rug from underneath people’ over the X-ray machine use.
But members of the Mold Community Hospital League of Friends after the meeting people needed to be patient and the demand still needed to be built up before they could request a full time service from the health board.
The X-ray machine was installed following more than a year of relentless fundraising after a healthcare review in 2012 picked out the hospital as one of the possible sites to be downgraded.
Like others within the BCUHB area, Mold’s Minor Injuries Unit and the X-ray facilities were earmarked for removal.
The decision caused anger and protest and the League of Friends pledged to raise enough money for the machine, which has played a role in retaining health services for the town.
The health board’s decision to reverse the downgrading was conditional on funds being raised for the machine, which was installed in March.
The BCHUB spokesman said: “The average waiting time at Mold is currently two weeks for routine X-rays and five to seven days for urgent X-rays.
“If patients need to be seen more urgently, they will be seen at an alternative hospital, and patients are also offered an appointment at another hospital if they would prefer to travel.
“We continue to work with the community health council to make best use of all resources that are available to the local community.”