A Gwynedd councillor has told the Cambrian News she is furious Tywyn Hospital was shut on the busy Bank Holiday Monday.

Cllr Louise Hughes was pruning a holly tree outside her house when she slipped and fell, knocking herself unconscious.

When she came round, Cllr Hughes went to Tywyn Hospital but “the building was deserted”. However, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) said that even when open, Tywyn Hospital does not treat the kind of injury Cllr Hughes sustained and she should have sought treatment elsewhere.

Cllr Hughes said: “Once again Tywyn had no medical cover on the busiest weekend of the year so far. There wasn’t even a cleaner there!” she said.

“I was covered in blood and shaking. It was quite alarming. I called 999 and they said to wait there because I had knocked myself out, but they said there was a 6-8 hour wait for an ambulance. Later a doctor called me back and told me to to A&E immediately. I laughed and said ‘Where, Bangor or Aberystwyth?’”

She added: “In Tywyn we are on the border of Betsi Cadwaladr and Hywel Dda - no-man’s land. With that and the recent threat to the air ambulance base closures, people are going to lose their lives unnecessarily.

“The health service is broken! It used to be free at the point of entry but there’s no point of entry any more.”

A friend cleaned Cllr Hughes’ head injuries and paramedics arrived a few hours later.

“They were great. It’s not the staff, it’s the system.

“I feel groggy but I’m okay. It could have been worse. What if someone had a heart attack?

“We’re fighting for this hospital but nothing has changed. In fact things are worse.”

A spokesperson for the Welsh Ambulance Service apologised for the wait Cllr Hughes endured. The spokesperson said: “We are sorry that Cllr Hughes did not have a good experience of our services. We invite Cllr Hughes to contact our Putting Things Right team if she would like to discuss the matter further.”

Ffion Johnstone, West Integrated Health Community Director at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, said: “Our Minor Injury Unit at Tywyn Hospital currently operates between 9am to 4pm Monday to Friday, excluding Bank Holidays.

“It is important to note that our Minor Injury Unit would not deal with the type of injury sustained by Cllr Hughes. Anyone who experiences a head injury with a loss of consciousness wouldn’t be classed as a minor injury and would need to seek medical support at one of our Emergency Departments.

“We urge the public to familiarise themselves with their local healthcare services, in order to ensure that they can receive the right care in the right place. Our website provides information on where you should go or who to contact if you are unwell or injured.”

Council Hughes’ injury almost coincides with the one year anniversary of the temporary closure on 13 April 2023 of Tywyn Hospital’s inpatient ward.

Campaigners looking to reinstate services at Tywyn Hospital told the Cambrian News this week that “the health board has not considered or referred to the impact on patients, relatives, staff or on the health service provided for the Tywyn area”.

Tywyn Hospital campaigners say the lights are on but nobody is home...
Tywyn Hospital campaigners say the lights are on but nobody is home... (Picture supplied)

They added: “The impact of closing the ward for patients and relatives remains a cause of severe upset and concern.

“In Tywyn we have elderly relatives of patients in Dolgellau Hospital who are unable to use public transport, who have been paying for private taxis to visit their loved ones in Dolgellau. 

“A local resident said Tywyn Hospital has long been a haven of care and nursing for members of their family and they have always contributed towards the purchase of equipment, most of which was bought with donations from the community.

“Their husband has been seriously ill in recent years and was discharged from Bronglais to Tywyn on three occasions. He was looked after so well and was not bed blocking. He is now back in Bronglais and should be in our local cottage hospital for his care but that option has been taken from us by a poorly managed health board. The shoddy way we have been treated in Tywyn is unacceptable.”

The campaigners say BCUHB documents show that in February 2023 they were considering the closure of the inpatient ward at Tywyn Hospital due to staffing shortages, which have been ongoing for years. A key factor in choosing to close Tywyn ward, which was repeatedly cited to the general public, was that there were more beds available at Dolgellau.

“Evidence from the board’s own documents also show that in fact only an equal number of beds were ever considered at both hospitals, that is 15,” the campaigners added.

The hospital action group members also say they have been “concerned to find in Betsi’s ‘Enhanced Services Action Plan’ that end of life and hospice care is to be considered as an option for beds at Tywyn Hospital, and there should be further discussions with Hospice Dewi Sant and Marie Curie Service in the area to follow up on previous conversations,” a campaign spokesperson added.

“No more information or details have been provided or any of the previous conversations shared with the public, but shows that BCUHB have been considering other plans for our hospital.

“Ulterior plans that the health board have for Tywyn Hospital need to be made public.

“Considerable funding from donations was provided to enable the hospital to be refurbished, and the hospital is part of the public health service meeting the needs of all the people of Tywyn and surrounding areas. Additionally, the appropriate use and management of donations is a serious concern, because in March 2023, weeks before its closure, over £10,000 from the Tywyn Hospital donations fund was authorised to pay for an updated patient kitchen for the inpatients ward, when in February 2023, the health board had begun planning its closure.

“The concern we’ve heard is that donations will be used elsewhere in Betsi and not on Dyfi ward or the hospital here. Donations were not made for use in any other hospitals in the Betsi area. People are now donating elsewhere for that reason.”

Commenting on the upcoming anniversary of the temporary closure of Tywyn Hospital’s inpatient ward, Ffion Johnstone, West Integrated Health Community Director at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, added: “We understand the local communities concerns around the temporary closure of Dyfi Ward at the hospital and the length of time it has remained closed. We would like to reassure the public that we are continuing in our recruitment drive to appoint the required staff to safely reopen the ward. We hope to extend our opening hours at our Minor Injury Unit to seven days a week once we are in a position to reopen Dyfi Ward at the hospital.”

When asked if beds could be given over to hospice care, Ffion Johnstone said: “We are working with our partners and stakeholders to look at what the main health needs are in the Tywyn area so we can ensure we have the most appropriate services available in our community now and in the future.

“We will continue to engage with our communities as we want to forge strong relationships so we can listen first hand to people’s concerns and work to find solutions which best service their health needs.”