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Health board 'mistakes' lead to jams.

THE latest outbreak of the vomiting bug norovirus at Wrexham Maelor can be partially blamed on the recent closure of cottage hospitals in the region.

That is the claim made North Wales Health Alliance (NWHA) campaigners, who argue that this year's axing of four sites at Flint, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Prestatyn and Llangollen would result in more bed blocking at the main district hospitals and lead to queues of ambulances waiting to admit patients.

On Wednesday and Thursday seven ambulances were pictured waiting outside the Maelor after a norovirus outbreak forced the closure of two wards at the hospital.

Mabon ap Gwynfor of the NWHA said: "If hospital occupancy rates go above 82% it's recognised that hospital-acquired infections including norovirus are far more likely.

"Health experts understand this so it's surprising that the Betsi Cadwaladr board has not considered this in their recent review, which centralised services and has seen occupancy rates in our general hospitals of 87%.

"Rushing the closure of community hospitals without planning for their replacements is putting more pressure on clinical staff. Managers have got it wrong and need to rethink their plans."

Plaid Cymru's North Wales AM, Llyr Gruffydd, said the closure of the four hospitals had lead to the loss of 50 beds.

"The chickens are coming home to roost.

Back in March, when Llangollen and Flint hospitals were closed, we warned that a lack of spare capacity and losing community facilities without adequately replacing them would create bed-blocking in district general hospitals such as Wrexham Maelor.

"The health minister has sent in a new team to sort out senior management in North Wales but there's little sign that the sort of changes needed to improve our health service are taking place.

"Reducing bed blocking so that ambulances aren't being used to treat A&E patients should be an immediate priority. " A Welsh Ambulance Service spokeswoman said: "Handover issues are of great concern to us and we are working closely with our health board colleagues to address them and ensure patients are handed over as safely and as quickly as possible so our staff are available in the community for the next 999 call."

A health board spokeswoman said: "Because of the nature of norovirus, there is always a risk that a patient can come into hospital, unaware that they are carrying the infection until their symptoms start.

"As the infection is easily passed between people, the hospital then has to take stringent measures to minimise the risk of it spreading.

"This includes suspending new admissions into affected areas, and not transferring patients from affected areas who might be carrying the infection out to other hospitals.

"It is these measures that are causing the present increased pressures on beds at Wrexham Maelor Hospital."

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Ambulances outside Wrexham Maelor this week
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Publication:Daily Post (Conwy, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 7, 2013
Words:466
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