PLAID Cymru MS Helen Mary Jones has raised the lack of GP services in Trimsaran in the Senedd during First Minister questions.
While she was positive overall about the way the Health Board has handled the Covid crisis, she said she had had some concerns raised with her.
Reacting to a petition started by Trimsaran Plaid County Councillor Kim Broom, Helen Mary Jones MS said:
“During the pandemic health boards across Wales have had to make changes in the provision of primary care. One example is the GP surgery in the village of Trimsaran in the Llanelli constituency that has had to be temporarily closed so space can be used for treating COVID patients if necessary.
“While, the community has accepted this, they are concerned, both in the immediate situation, because they have to travel now to Kidwelly, and at the same time the bus services have been cut because of COVID—a perfect storm, but perhaps unavoidable. But there is a suspicion that the health board may use the COVID crisis to permanently close that surgery.
“I raised the concerns directly with the First Minister, Mark Drakeford last week to ask for reassurances to my constituents in Trimsaran that the Welsh Government does not expect any changes to primary care services made because of the COVID crisis to be extended beyond the pandemic without proper assessment and consultation.”
The First Minister agreed with Helen Mary Jones MS.
Mark Drakeford replied:
“Well, let me just emphasise the last part of what the Member said, because, on that basis, then I could sign up to what she just said, because I was about to say to her before she’d made that final point, that, of course, many of the changes that have happened during the pandemic we will want to see them continue afterwards. But they need to be properly consulted upon, and they need to be properly understood. But, the fact that we have thousands of video consultations happening every day, and people no longer having to travel inconvenient distances, and do things that were difficult for them to do, we’ll want to preserve those things as well.
“The specific point that Helen Mary Jones makes points to a dilemma. I’ve been asked a number of times on the floor of the Senedd to think about having COVID-only hospitals, and, therefore, other hospitals that deal with all the non-COVID things. But when you do that, it’s inevitable, as you see in Trimsaran, that the things you would normally go to a hospital for will no longer be available to you, and you have to travel an even longer distance to find them. So, dealing with the pandemic and trying to keep people safe, and trying to make sure that people who need the health service for non-COVID reasons don’t run the risk of contracting the disease is genuinely challenging. And it’s been felt in our primary care, as well as in our hospital services.
“As we move beyond the pandemic, I am very keen that we learn the positive lessons, the astonishing rate of change that the health service has managed to accommodate over the last 12 months, but of course, those are things that need to be done in consultation with local populations, and to make sure that patients are taken on that journey.”