Patients in rural areas of the Vale of Glamorgan could face “huge problems” if a hospital ward closure means they have to travel further for care, councillors have said.
A campaign to save the Sam Davies ward at Barry Hospital from closure has been backed by councillors.
Vale of Glamorgan Council will demand clarification over the long-term future of the hospital after councillors unanimously backed a motion on September 9.
The Sam Davies ward, which is a 23-bed rehabilitation ward for older people, could close under plans by Cardiff and Vale University Health Board (UHB).
Vale councillors said patients from Barry and the rural Vale could be forced to travel to Llandough or even Cardiff for “step-down” care.
The health board says it wants to get patients home sooner as even short stays in hospital with reduced mobility can lead to muscle wastage, especially among elderly and frail people.
Councillor Gordon Kemp told the meeting his mother-in-law was transferred from the Heath and Llandough hospitals to the Sam Davies ward, where she died in August.
He said: “She was happy to be moved to Barry to the Sam Davies ward because as a lady of 90 years of age many of her friends of a similar age she felt they were able to visit her more easily than anywhere else.”
Cllr Kemp said one Saturday night the family was concerned his mother-in-law was deteriorating – but was told there would not be a doctor until the following Tuesday.
The family called the out-of-hours service and a doctor arrived at 4am.
Cllr Kemp forwarded an amendment calling for the health board to “properly fund” Barry Hospital, which was accepted by councillors.
“While I fully support the Sam Davies ward my concern is under-funding generally,” he said.
“I feel the problem here is the ward and the hospital generally is not sufficiently funded by the health board.
“No one wants to close anything unless they have to [but] if funding was available this could be properly resourced and maintained and a better service would be provided there.”
Patients at the Sam Davies ward would receive their care at either University Hospital Llandough or closer to home.
The agreed motion states the Vale of Glamorgan Council “regrets” the proposals to close the Sam Davies ward and “fears the impacts the closure of the ward will have, and the additional pressures if will place on ambulance staff”.
It also says the council “shares trade union concerns in relation to the proposals and consultation” – trade union Unison has been campaigning on the issue.
The council will also ask the health board to clarify the future of the hospital and fund ward and the hospital properly – following amendments to the motion from opposition parties.
Councillors voted to remove a line in the motion calling on the Welsh Government to ring fence new funds from Westminster to support the ward and local medical services.
Conservative Councillor Janice Charles, who put forward the original motion, told the meeting there is “a lack of good community care” for patients to stay at home.
“These patients without intervention could bounce back to hospital very, very quickly,” she said.
Councillor Gwyn John said he was “fully behind” saving the Sam Davies ward.
He said: “To go to Llandough or to the Heath is a huge problem for many people in the rural Vale.
“We must save the Sam Davies ward, it’s as simple as that.”
Council leader Neil Moore also supported saving the ward and called on the health board to clarify the long-term future for Barry Hospital.
He said: “We need to know what their intention is. They need to clarify it.”
Cardiff and Vale University Health Board has started an engagement process on its proposals – which it says would improve the care for frail older people in the Vale of Glamorgan.
The health board says even short periods of hospitalisation in the elderly can lead to deterioration and muscle wastage.
A health board spokeswoman says there is here is “plenty of published evidence that tells us that patients, especially the elderly and frail, will clinically decondition whilst they are in an acute hospital bed with reduced mobility”.
“When patients no longer need to be in hospital, they should be able to leave with appropriate support in place more quickly, in order to give them the best chance of continued independence and dignity in their own home or a community setting.”
Joseph Grey, clinical director of clinical gerontology at Cardiff and Vale UHB said “By improving our health care services to enable patients to recover and return home more quickly, we will improve the health and wellbeing of the patient population, increase their confidence and help them maintain their independence, while enabling clinical staff to provide appropriate care as needed.
“The new proposals will help improve independence and mobility. They will also offer better opportunities for patients to recover more quickly and to return home in a more timely fashion with appropriate support in the community.
“We are inviting people to give us their thoughts and comments on these proposals which will help us to shape our services for frail older people in the Vale of Glamorgan.”
The eight-week engagement on the care of frail older people in the Vale of Glamorgan will end on November 1 and the Health Board will also be holding a public workshop on Monday, September 23, between 1pm and 3.30pm at the Barry Memo Arts Centre, Gladstone Road, Barry, CF62 8NA.
Matt Discombe covers Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan as part of the BBC's Local Democracy Reporter project, which is aimed at enhancing reporting from local authorities across the UK.