ONLY one doctor out of more than 430 pursued an opportunity to work at Singleton Hospital’s under-threat minor injury unit (MIU) in Swansea, it has emerged.
The unit was meant to reopen in the spring after a period of temporary closure since last November, but a number of GPs left the facility during this time.
That has meant the MIU remaining closed on safety grounds, with Swansea Bay University Health Board chiefs deciding a series of next steps at a meeting on July 25.
Addressing the board, Dr Stephen Greenfield – a clinician at the unit – said the worsening GP situation meant the MIU would have no cover on Tuesdays and Fridays from 2pm to 8pm, with another GP also not keen on continuing their role.
Dr Greenfield said he emailed 430 potential candidates to seek expressions of interest, and that only four replied. He contacted two of them but heard nothing further back.
He said: “I ended up having discussions with one doctor, but when I discussed (shift) timings he was not interested.”
Dr Greenfield said he also contacted doctors at the hospital’s acute GP unit, without success.
However, he said MIU staff had been redeployed to the acute GP unit during the closure period.
As a result, he said, the proportion of acute GP unit patients assessed and sent home rather than being admitted to the hospital rose by 10%.
Non-officer board member Mark Child, who is Swansea’s cabinet member for care, health and ageing well, said he had sought assurances that the MIU would definitely reopen after the period of closure.
“We had those reassurances,” he said.
Mr Child said he was disappointed that he had not been told the health board had written to a patient watchdog in May requesting an extended closure of the MIU.
He said he appreciated “we are where we are” but that he was nevertheless “uncomfortable”.
He added: “We need to consider very carefully how we go forward.”
The board’s chief operating officer, Chris White, said he had been comfortable giving assurances that the MIU would stay open, subject to its resources remaining at the level they were when it closed temporarily.
He added: “I’m very happy to apologise not to have given you more updates.”
The MIU has never had an X-ray machine, unlike the MIU at Neath Port Talbot Hospital, and patient numbers were said to be low.
The health board, in conjunction with the community health council watchdog, is now seeking public feedback on how best to use Singleton Hospital’s MIU resources.
This will include a proposal to keep the MIU as it has historically operated.
A report will be brought to the next board meeting in September, prior to further public engagement on firm options and a decision on the MIU’s future in November.
Mwoyo Makuto, the community health council’s interim chief officer, said the early feedback from the public was that “the case for closure (of the MIU) has not been as transparent as it could have been”.
Image Attribution: Robert Cuthill / Singleton Hospital