Concerns have been raised of the knock-on effect the closure of hospital wards in Haverfordwest will have on hospital waiting times across mid and west Wales.
On Tuesday afternoon, Hywel Dda University Health Board declared a major incident at Withybush Hospital in Haverfordwest, with three hospital wards closed so far and patients having to be relocated, because of concerns over reinforced concrete used in the building.
The health board says that the relocation of patients and loss of space will have a knock-on effect on services.
Reacting to the announcement, Shadow Welsh Conservative Health Minister, Russell George, who is also the MS for Montgomeryshire, said: “All aspects of health are devolved in Wales, including hospital maintenance.
"Moving patients around the health board is only going to increase waiting times.
“With the problem expected to be more severe than outlined, Labour must invest in our hospitals that have been neglected and left in last century - Welsh NHS as a whole is stuck in the past with no digital prescriptions, no NHS app and still using fax machines.
“Labour have imposed real terms cuts to the health service here in Wales, the only government in the UK to do this, not once, but twice. Let’s scrap Labour’s plans for more politicians and fund our Welsh NHS instead.”
Plaid Cymru spokesperson for health and care and Dwyfor Meirionnydd MS, Mabon ap Gwynfor, was equally critical of the Welsh Government, saying: “Two decades of underinvestment from Labour, and nearly 14 years of underfunding from Westminster and the NHS in Wales is now literally crumbling in front of our eyes.
“We’ve known for a long time that our NHS in Wales is at breaking point and something has to give.
"There have been long-standing problems with patient flow through hospitals, more and more patients being added to waiting lists, and over the last 12 months our hard-working staff have taken to picket lines over pay and conditions.
"And now a reminder that the buildings themselves are also vulnerable to pressure.
“This is not the first warning that Labour Welsh Government have had that buildings are not up to scratch. Back in January, we learnt that only 62% of buildings owned by Betsi Cadwaladr UHB are operationally safe. Yes, Welsh Government’s hands are tied by Westminster, but let’s not forget that this has happened on their watch.”
The MS for Preseli Pembrokeshire, Paul Davies, added: “It’s of critical importance that survey work is done quickly and I hope that Hywel Dda University Health Board is doing everything possible to make sure that happens.”
“The Labour Government also has an important role to play in supporting the Health Board and ensuring it has the support and resources it needs to understand the scale of the problem.
“Given the seriousness of the situation and the impact it will have on the delivery of services in Pembrokeshire, I will be writing to the Health Minister to ensure the Welsh Government provides the Health Board with the support that it will need.”
“Remedial work needs to take place as soon as possible so that services continue at Withybush hospital.”
Hywel Dda Health Board also said the reinforced concrete causing the issue has also been used in the construction of a limited part of Bronglais Hospital in Aberystwyth, but did not elaborate on the issues this may cause.
In its statement, the health board said: "While best efforts are being made to conduct survey work as quickly as possible, the resulting findings of the survey work is, in some cases, requiring patients to be moved from wards to alternative locations and adapting services to reflect the availability of the site.
"As time progresses, this is likely to have an impact on other health board services at other sites as we move patients and services to alternate locations.
"We know that the survey work and remedial action can cause considerable disruption and concern amongst members of our community and we apologise for any inconvenience caused.
"The health board would like to thank hospital staff, patients and visitors for their patience and understanding over the coming months while we carry out this essential work."
Reacting to the announcement, the Welsh Government said: “The presence of Reinforced Autoclave Aerated Concrete (RAAC) does not appear to be a widespread issue in Wales and is only present on a small number of sites. Health Boards have been asked to carry out survey work to ascertain the presence and condition of RAAC on their estate and we will announce next steps once all surveys have been completed.”