Assurances are being sought by the health minister that everything possible is being done to recruit nursing staff to enable the safe reopening of services at Tywyn Hospital.
Dwyfor Meirionnydd MS, Mabon ap Gwynfor, has raised the matter in the Senedd, questioning whether the Welsh Government appreciated the substantial and unique challenges facing health services in south Meirionnydd, which suffers disproportionately from a chronic shortage of nurses and other health provisions.
Mr ap Gwynfor who, alongside Liz Saville Roberts MP, is due to have further meetings with Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) this week, appealed to nurses looking for work to consider applying for vacant positions at Tywyn Hospital - championing the area as a "wonderful place to work".
Mr ap Gwynfor MS said: "The Minister will have heard me asking a question of the First Minister on Tywyn Hospital. In his response, the First Minister said that staff were transferred to Dolgellau in order to ensure services in the area.
"It wasn't clear which area the First Minister was referring to because Tywyn is over half an hour away from Dolgellau by car, never mind those using buses. So, it remains that Bro Dysynni has lost a crucial service recently.
"Bro Dysynni is a glorious area. It's a wonderful place to work, it has a good quality of life and excellent education in the area.
"If any nurse out there wants to experience a great workplace in a wonderful area, then I would recommend that they consider working in Tywyn.
"But every time we raise the question of nurse numbers, as I've just done, the Minister, and others, tell us that there are more nurses than ever before working in the health service. That might be true, but there is a great shortage in some parts of Wales.'
"Only four nurses in bands 6 and 7 are required to reopen the Dyfi ward in Tywyn. The board tried to recruit nurses from nursing agencies, having secured accommodation for them, but the agencies failed to provide those nurses.
"This in itself is disgraceful. What steps is the Minister taking in order to ensure that there are adequate numbers of nurses available to reopen the Dyfi ward and the minor injuries unit in Tywyn?
"Can the Minister take action to ensure that nursing agencies do provide nurses as promised?"
Responding, Health Minister, Eluned Morgan said: "You're aware that the health board has tried very hard to recruit to that area. One of the things that we have in place is the national workforce implementation plan and, as part of that, we are putting incentives in place to target not only the groups that we want to see more of, but where exactly we want to send those people. We are doing that, for example, with dentists—we're trying to send dentists to areas where it's traditionally been difficult to recruit to that profession. Work is being done by Health Education and Improvement Wales on that.
"But 446 more nurses are working in Betsi, for example, than there were 10 years ago. So, the proportion has gone up, but the demand has gone up. That's part of the problem—the demand is higher than ever before. You'll be aware that we spend more than £0.25 billion annually on training for the NHS. Evidently, we're trying to recruit. We recruited 400 nurses last year and there is lots of work in the pipeline to recruit more nurses internationally. Part of the challenge at present is, even if you can recruit them, where to put them. There is a problem in terms of where we put these people once we recruit them. That is also a challenge that we have to think about and tackle, particularly in rural areas."