The Member of the Senedd for the Rhondda has called on the Labour Government to develop more capacity in its own coronavirus testing system following the latest blunder by the Westminster-appointed contractors.
Leanne Wood has written to Health Minister Vaughan Gething following the removal of the Serco Testing facility in Clydach Vale. In the letter, she questions why the facility has been removed despite the transmission rate being too high to ease travel restrictions.
On Thursday, people were also directed to the site for coronavirus tests by the UK Government website even though the facility had moved on the day before.
In the letter, Leanne said: “I have been assured by the executive team at Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board that testing capacity would not be reduced while transmission rates continue to increase in Rhondda Cynon Taf. The data shows that while the transmission rate may be gradually flattening out, cases are still increasing and were increasing when this decision was taken. Can you explain why the Rhondda is losing testing capacity in the current scenario? Were you consulted on the Serco facility moving to a different area? If you were, did you consent to that?
“The system appears to be in shambles, with media reports of hundreds of people still turning up at the site in Clydach Vale on Thursday October 1st after booking tests through the UK Government-run online system. This is despite the Serco facility packing up 24 hours earlier due to an apparent ‘lack of demand.’ I find this hard to believe given that, as mentioned earlier, cases continue to rise in RCT.
“While you are not answerable for the UK Government’s online booking system, there are serious questions you need to consider. Only three weeks ago, the facility was ordered by Westminster to throttle capacity to just 60 tests a day, despite having the capacity to process up to 500 tests a day. This was an unforgiveable decision given the prevalence of coronavirus in the area. I hope you will agree with me that the UK Government’s handling of coronavirus testing has been dreadful and that experience of the Serco centre in the Rhondda underlines the need to retain services in the public sector rather than outsource them to the private sector.”
She added: “I have repeatedly said that lives depend on the testing system working and being robust. It looks like it has lacked both of those qualities to date. In the Rhondda we are now in the position of people dying from the virus once again. I would like to know what plans you have to ensure that Wales’ capacity is boosted and not so reliant on a UK Government system that is falling apart?
“In the Royal Glamorgan Hospital, staff tell me that they need tests which can be processed in around an hour in order to get the spread there under control.
“We also need to see more availability of home tests. It has to be preferable to send out more home tests as opposed to asking ill and infectious people to travel to a single site.
“Lessons need to be learnt from what previously happened in care homes and what has more recently happened at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital, not to mention the experience of hosting the Serco facility in the Rhondda.”
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