Rhondda AM Leanne Wood has received assurances that a GP surgery in Maerdy will not close but has been told that reduced hours are likely to occur again.
The Plaid Cymru leader contacted Cwm Taf Health Board after Maerdy surgery announced it would be closing for February 14th and would only be open for half days on February 21st, 22nd and 23rd due to a lack of GPs.
Many constituents reacted angrily and expressed fears for the future of health services in Maerdy. Ms Wood immediately wrote to Allison Williams, chief executive of the local health board, to find out more about the situation and the future for the surgery.
In response, Mrs Williams wrote: ‘As you are already aware Cwm Taf University Health Board, in keeping with other health boards in Wales and the rest of the UK, is experiencing difficulties around the recruitment and retention of GPs. However, the UHB seeks to ensure that all its ‘managed practices’ have their full complement of GPs but on occasions this is not possible.
‘Please can I assure you that the UHB is committed to delivering a comprehensive service from Maerdy Branch Surgery and has no intentions of closing the premises. There are often challenges with running services across two sites but the UHB has continued to demonstrate its commitment to this.
‘It is worth reinforcing that Maerdy Surgery is a branch surgery of Ferndale Medical Practice and under the General Medical Services Contract (2004) only has to be open for a minimum of 20 hours per week.’
After detailing the forthcoming surgery closures, Mrs Williams adds: ‘It is with regret that we are likely to experience the same difficulties later this year when it is Easter and Whitsun school holidays, when services will again need to be consolidated to the main site – Ferndale Surgery.
‘The UHB is striving to ensure the sustainability of services at both practices and we are currently advertising for new GPs to join the existing practice team. In addition, as you are aware from previous correspondence, the UHB are advertising Ferndale/Maerdy surgery as a vacant practice with a view to it being transferred back to independent status.’
In response, Ms Wood said: “It is concerning to hear of how the GP shortage is impacting on Maerdy surgery. This is a part of the Rhondda that is at the top of the valley and has many elderly people who would find it difficult to travel down to Ferndale to see a doctor.
“It is difficult enough to get an appointment as things stand, but reduced opening hours will make the situation worse. It is great that Cwm Taf Health Board has reiterated their commitment to keeping the surgery open but the admission that reduced opening hours will likely happen again in the Easter and Whitsun holidays will not go down well.”
Ms Wood added: “This worsening GP crisis in Wales underlines the need for Plaid Cymru’s flagship health policy to recruit an extra 1,000 doctors. It also makes no sense that the Labour Government has turned their back on our plans to establish another medical school in Wales to train more doctors.
“Communities like Maerdy are suffering because of the mishandling of the health service by successive Labour Governments and their abject lack of forward planning.”
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