Kirsty Williams, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, was today permitted to ask an urgent question in the National Assembly to the Health Minister about the postponement of non-urgent surgery at the hospitals of mid and west Wales this winter.
Hywel Dda Health Board said on Monday that certain orthopaedic surgery would be cancelled for a period of time while it dealt with winter pressures.
Kirsty Williams also criticised the Welsh Labour Government for their farcical mishandling of the issue since Monday.
Kirsty Williams AM said:
"If we take a step back from what has happened since Monday, what we see is the Welsh Labour Government essentially admitting that for four or five months during the year, 1 in 8 people in Wales will see reduced services in their local health board because of winter. The NHS should be a year-round service and not something that stops during winter.
"The Welsh Labour Government seems to be all over the shop on this issue. On Monday, the Welsh Labour Government said that the health board was only 'exploring options'. On Tuesday, the First Minister seemed to endorse the plans of the health board by saying that it was necessary. And today, the Health Minister said that the health board was only consulting on these plans. This situation is farcical.
"Call it winter pressures, poor financial planning or making budget savings, the people who are already on long orthopaedic waiting lists will suffer for longer. If you ask the patients who are suffering, they will tell you that chronic joint pain doesn't stop for four or five months a year. They do not have the luxury of postponing their pain. This is not an acceptable way of running our health service.
"Given that the Health Minister has seen each LHBs' winter plans, I want the Health Minister to gives us a guarantee that other LHBs won't follow suit. What would be even better is if the Health Minister made these plans public so that people in the rest of Wales could see for themselves what is happening in their LHB."