Welsh Government ‘too slow’ to adopt COVID-19 early intervention strategy claims Plaid Cymru

LIVES may have been lost because the Welsh Government was too slow in adopting an early intervention strategy for patients with early Covid-19 symptoms, Plaid Cymru health spokesperson Rhun ap Iorwerth MS has said.

Mr ap Iorwerth wrote to the Health Minister in March and April, urging the Welsh Government to promote blood oxygen tests and the use of CPAP breathing support as a means of detecting Covid-19 early in people with relevant symptoms, and providing earlier treatment to avoid the need for intensive care ventilation. Early evidence showed this could save lives and take the pressure off the NHS.

He said Ministers were “frighteningly slow” in updating guidance for health professionals and that “two months of inaction between the correspondence and the change in approach may have resulted in catastrophic consequences.”

Now, more than four months on, the Welsh Government has finally issued a statement highlighting the benefits of this earlier intervention and promising new resources to deliver this new approach.

Rhun ap Iorwerth MS said:

“International evidence has consistently highlighted that intervening earlier, through the use of pulse oximeters, CPAP machines and blood oxygen level tests, could lead to better outcomes in Covid-19 positive cases.

“Plaid Cymru has, on many occasions over a period of months, asked Welsh Government to adopt this medical approach – in correspondence with the Health Minister, during questions in the Senedd, and in the COVID core group meetings with the Welsh Government.

“But they have been frighteningly slow in reacting, leading to months of inaction between the correspondence and the change in approach and a further 2-month delay in informing the Senedd and the public. This delay could have cost many lives.”

Responding to Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price MS in today’s virtual Senedd meeting, the First Minister said the NHS was overwhelmed at the time, but Rhun ap Iorwerth said:

“The purpose of our intervention, encouraging the early identification and treatment of silent hypoxia, was precisely to take the pressure off the NHS at that time, and ensure that more patients could be treated without the need for intensive care ventilation, where the chances of survival are significantly reduced.”

He added:

“Is it clear that Ministers need to reflect on elements of inaction during the pandemic. It’s vital that the Welsh Government acts swiftly and decisively if we are to respond better to the second wave than the first.

“That is why the Government must publish a detailed timetable for the inquiry into the pandemic in Wales – an inquiry it has already committed to – without any further delay.”

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