Earlier treatment of suspected Covid cases could have saved hundreds of lives

Mr ap Iorwerth wrote to the Health Minister in March and April, urging the Welsh Government to promote blood oxygen tests and the use of CPAP breathing support as a means of detecting Covid-19 early in people with relevant symptoms, and providing earlier treatment to avoid the need for intensive care ventilation. Early evidence showed this could save lives and take pressure off the NHS.

He said Ministers were “frighteningly slow” in updating guidance for health professionals and that “two months of inaction between the correspondence and the change in approach may have resulted in catastrophic consequences.”

Now, more than four months on, the Welsh Government has finally issued a statement highlighting the benefits of this earlier intervention and promising new resources to deliver this new approach.

Rhun ap Iorwerth MS, Plaid Cymru Shadow Health Minister said,

“International evidence has consistently highlighted that intervening earlier, through the use of pulse oximeters, CPAP machines and blood oxygen level tests, could lead to better outcomes in Covid-19 positive cases.

“Plaid Cymru has, on many occasions over a period of months, asked Welsh Government to adopt this medical approach – in correspondence with the Health Minister, during questions in the Senedd, and in the Covid core group meetings with the Welsh Government.

“But they have been frighteningly slow in reacting, leading to months of inaction between the correspondence and the change in approach and a further 2 month delay in informing the Senedd and the public. This delay could have cost many lives.”

Responding to Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price MS in today’s virtual Senedd meeting, the First Minister said the NHS was overwhelmed at the time, but Rhun ap Iorwerth MS said:

“The purpose of our intervention, encouraging the early identification and treatment of silent hypoxia, was precisely to take pressure off the NHS at that time, and ensure that more patients could be treated without need for intensive care ventilation, where the chances of survival are significantly reduced.”

He added:

“Is it clear that Ministers need to reflect on elements of inaction during the pandemic. It’s vital that the Welsh Government acts swiftly and decisively if we are to respond better to the second wave than the first.

“That is why the Government must publish a detailed timetable for the inquiry into the pandemic in Wales – an inquiry it has already committed to – without any further delay.”

Rhun ap Iorwerth calls on Welsh Government to limit non-essential travel to English Covid hotspots

As the lifting of lockdown restrictions are paused across England, and further restrictions have been imposed on a large area of northwest England, Plaid Cymru has called on the First Minister of Wales to follow Scotland’s lead and limit non-essential travel between English Covid hotspots and Wales.

When localised lockdowns are imposed without travel restrictions, it means that residents only need to travel outside the area to be free of localised lockdown rules. Limiting all but essential travel between Wales and the locked-down areas of England, including the Greater Manchester area, will bring clarity to all, and help increase public safety.

Plaid Cymru Shadow Health Minister Rhun ap Iorwerth MS added,

“There are direct implications for areas like Ynys Môn and the north of Wales resulting from the new lockdown restrictions in place in the north of England. We need clear guidance and communication from Welsh Government about the behavioural changes that are needed on travel, socialising indoors, and masks for example.

“People must think very carefully about how necessary their journeys are between our two regions at the moment, in order to ensure that things are brought under control.”

Care sector needs a voice at the table, says Rhun ap Iorwerth

There should be an explicit “voice” for the care sector within Welsh Government, Plaid Cymru has said. This call is supported by a care home owner who lost 21 residents to COVID-19, and who says that the care service structure is “palpably ineffective, convoluted and wasteful.”

These calls are echoed by Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Minister for Health, Rhun ap Iorwerth MS, who has called for parity between the health and social care sectors.

Noting that the “terrible cost” to Welsh care homes had been well publicised throughout the Covid-19 pandemic – from accessibility of PPE for care workers in the early stages, to care homes having to accept untested patients from hospital – the consequence, says Ms Jewell, was “nothing short of a national scandal.”

Plaid Cymru is calling for accountability for the sector to be clarified through a named official in government having lead responsibility for ensuring that the voice of the care sector is amplified, and for there to be greater political accountability. Under current arrangement the person in charge of social care is a deputy minister.

Rhun ap Iorwerth MS, Shadow Minister for Health for Plaid Cymru, said:

“This pandemic has shown clearly that the care sector has been neglected for too long. I want to give parity to those two sectors – health and care – and indeed Plaid Cymru wants to establish a true National Health AND Care Service for Wales.

“But Government should immediately look to fill the gap that exists whereby care lacks the voice it needs at the heart of Government administration. Our NHS Chief Executive and Chief Medical Officer have been prominent figures over these past few months. We need someone of equivalent status whose job it is to ensure that the care sector isn’t in any way forgotten again.”

Brian Rosenberg, Chairman of Tregwilym Lodge Ltd said:

“It is a fact that the current structure and system of delivering the Care Budget and the delivery of Care Services to some of the most vulnerable members of the community has been utterly broken for a long time.

“However the arrival of Covid-19 this year exposed in a horrific way the utter failure of the whole cumbersome and clumsy structure currently in operation. Failures in management of PPE, changes in directives from Welsh Government regarding testing, admissions and discharges from hospital and other policies have resulted in many unnecessary Covid-related deaths; 21 in Tregwilym Lodge alone!

“Whilst investment in public sector workers is clearly welcome, it is bitterly disappointing that social care remains overlooked and ignored by Government. The persistent restrictions on social care funding means that this is by default a largely minimum wage sector. As a sector caring for residents with high levels of complexity and acuity we need a robust career pathway and a voice at the highest level.

“Anyone looking at this structure could see how palpably ineffective, convoluted and wasteful it is.”

Timetable for restoring Primary Care services in Holyhead urgently needed, says Rhun ap Iorwerth

Plaid Cymru Member of the Senedd for Ynys Mon Rhun ap Iorwerth has called for urgent action as concerns persist about primary care capacity in the Holyhead area.

With the Cambria and Longford Road surgeries having been taken over by the Health Board recently due to a collapse in their services, it’s understood that a shortage of GPs and other key staff are causing problems at the town’s other surgery, too.

Mr ap Iorwerth has remained in regular contact with the Health Board and has been pushing for the creation of a new state-of the art Health Centre for the town and surrounding area. He has asked for the old Woolworths site to be considered, as a site that could be accessible to all and which could bring vibrancy to the town centre, too.

There are also plans to formally merge the Cambria and Longford Road surgeries, in coming months, with services to be spread over the two sites, but the MS has written to BCUHB’s Chairman asking what urgent steps will be taken now to restore services to an acceptable level.

Plaid Cymru MS for Ynys Mon Rhun ap Iorwerth said:

“The problems facing primary care in Holyhead are well known, and I’ve been campaigning for action to ensure health services in the town are rebuilt and are once more fit for purpose. We need a new modern, and sustainable staffed health centre. But what concerns me is that the situation appears to be getting worse, and not better.

“The current pandemic is compounding the problem, and making solutions more difficult to find, but urgent action is needed. Writing to the health board’s Chairman, I have highlighted one particular case of an elderly gentleman whose physical and mental health is deteriorating through being unable to arrange a face-to-face appointment to have his medication reviewed.

“We need a clear timetable from the Health Board detailing what steps they’re taking to restore full primary care provision in Holyhead, and we need it urgently.”

Testing Delays ‘undermining Public Safety and confidence’ says Rhun ap Iorwerth

Responding to the news that further lockdown restrictions have been eased in Wales, Shadow Health Minister for Plaid Cymru, Rhun ap Iorwerth MS has said the Welsh Government must be able to prove its ability to deal with new outbreaks – or risk losing public confidence.

Figures released this week show nearly three quarters of test results have taken longer than the optimal 24 hours.

Plaid Cymru Shadow Health Minister, Rhun ap Iorwerth MS, said:

“We all want to gradually get our freedoms back, but any easing of restrictions needs to be accompanied by a robust mechanism to stamp out coronavirus outbreaks.

“The latest testing turnaround times do not fill me with confidence that Welsh Government will be able to quickly react to new outbreaks, given that three quarters of tests from regional testing centres are taking more than 24 hours to return.

“The recent outbreak in Wrexham is a warning that we still live with a very real Covid-19 threat, and that robust regimes are needed to identify and clamp down on local clusters. This is vital so we can avoid the economic and social impact of having to impose new strict lockdowns.”

Nurse Education plans needs to be released “as a matter of urgency”

Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Health Minister Rhun ap Iorwerth MS, has called for a detailed plan on nurse education places in Wales to be released urgently, and for the plans to show clear signs that lessons have been learnt from the COVID-19 experience.

Mr ap Iorwerth says that “despite promises” from Labour Welsh Government of a new workforce strategy, and the establishment of a new body to oversee workforce education, he says there’s “little evidence that historic problems are being put behind us.” Established in October 2018, Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW) oversees the education of the healthcare workforce in Wales.

While nurse education plans were developed prior to the pandemic, Mr ap Iorwerth understands that these are being reworked, but says “it’s feared that until that work is finished, decisions on staffing and education will continue to happen in an ad-hoc manner with no real strategy.”

In particular, there are concerns about nursing in the areas of children, mental health, learning disability and district nursing, which have seen shortfalls before.

Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Health Minister Rhun ap Iorwerth MS said:

“The publication of Commissioning Figures for nurse education placements are an important part of the workforce planning cycle. The plan needs to be fit for purpose, it needs to be detailed, and it needs to be delivered as a matter of urgency.

“However, despite promises of a Welsh Government new workforce strategy, and the establishment of a new body to oversee workforce and education matters – Health Education and Improvement Wales – there’s little evidence that historic problems are being put behind us.

“In particular, we need to know that areas that have suffered from shortfalls in recent years have been targeted. These include the training of children’s, mental health and learning disability nurses and also more district nurses.

“Our NHS and care services are only as good as the staff working in them. Now is the time for a real strategy on nurses education, which includes the creation of sufficient training places in key areas. Nurses also need to be given the time by the health boards to continue with their education, which in turns helps them to advance their careers and ensure all specialisms are filled.

“Until that work is finished, decisions on staffing and education will continue to happen in an ad-hoc manner with no real strategy, and that will be to the detriment of Welsh nurses and, ultimately, their patients.”

“Make coverings mandatory in shops” says Plaid as masks made compulsory on public transport in Wales

Welsh Government must stop “lagging behind” and follow up to date scientific evidence on face coverings says Plaid Cymru Shadow Health Minister Rhun ap Iorwerth MS

The Welsh Government should “embrace” scientific evidence and make masks mandatory in shops, Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Health Minister Rhun ap Iorwerth MS has said.

Although face coverings are now mandatory on public transport in Wales, there is still no requirement to use them in any other public spaces.

Last week, England joined Scotland in making face coverings mandatory in shops.

Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Health Minister, Rhun ap Iorwerth MS said the Welsh Government’s decision making over face coverings “contradicts the cautious approach they’ve been following until now”.

Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Health Minister added that with advice from the WHO, the president of the Royal Society, and various scientific publications including from Oxford and Washington Universities have been explicit about the effectiveness of face coverings in preventing the spread of covid-19.

Plaid Cymru Shadow Health Minister, Rhun ap Iorwerth MS said,

“The Welsh Government really needs to update its policy on face coverings and embrace the latest scientific advice that suggests it can make a real difference in decreasing transmission of the virus. Instead, they’re lagging behind.

“Their reluctance to do so contradicts the cautious approach it has been following until, and frankly puts its citizens more at risk.

“The Welsh Government must urgently follow the overwhelming advice from sources including the WHO, the president of the Royal Society, various publications including from Oxford and Washington Universities, and many, many more.”

“Everything that helps combat the risks should be embraced. We’re seeing from a recent increase in cases in the Wrexham area, for example, that the risks of increased transmission are still very much present.”

More Summer Childcare Support needed for Key Workers, says Rhun ap Iorwerth

Rhun ap Iorwerth, Member of the Senedd for Ynys Môn, has expressed concern that many key workers are struggling with childcare over the summer and is calling on Welsh Government to reconsider its decision not to fully fund summer care.

Many parents who are key workers – particularly in the health and care sector – have contacted Mr ap Iorwerth following the decision not to continue Covid-19 childcare hubs Wales-wide, meaning they are faced with last minute and unforeseen childcare issues.

Many have found that usual childminding services are already full to capacity and many grandparents are still shielding, leaving parents with limited options, whereas the Coronavirus Childcare Assistance Scheme (C-CAS) during the summer holidays will only be provided to key workers’ children under the age of five, and vulnerable children.

Rhun ap Iorwerth, MS for Ynys Môn, said:

“Many parents are telling me that the decision not to fund child care for key workers over the summer has left them ‘in the lurch’. For those key workers who have no alternative childcare options, they are telling me that they’re having to consider giving up work.

“Many normally rely on grandparents or extended families, but find themselves in a position where grandparents are still shielding, and their family and friends have already formed other extended households.

“I have been in contact with Anglesey Council and they are clearly frustrated that after putting a detailed plan in place to deliver childcare for key workers over the summer, a last minute decision by Welsh Government not to fund it meant the plans could no longer be delivered.

“I have also written to Welsh Government, asking them to reconsider the decision urgently, or to at least review the rules on extended households so that key workers have more childcare options.”

One parent, Clare Mcmullen, a District Nurse from Holyhead, explained that the decision not to carry on with the Childcare Assistance Scheme will have a significant impact on her family. She said:

“The lack of available care is a major problem for me and my family. I am unable to take more annual leave, and with schools not opening until mid September, I’ll need more childcare than usual.

“My only option would be for my children to go to a different household every shift I work – some days that may have to be with with relatives who are shielding, and other days with key workers currently working on COVID-19 wards. I don’t want to create that kind of health risk.

“From the start I have been very aware that my role as a nurse is putting my children at risk, yet I have never hesitated in doing it. But now I need some help.“

Careworkers should be on the same terms as their Healthcare counterparts, says Rhun ap Iorwerth

Rhun ap Iorwerth MS responds to announcement that doctors and dentists in Wales are to be given 2.8% pay increase.

“I’m pleased that this is a decent pay settlement for doctors, dentists and others in the NHS that have given so much during this pandemic. However, Plaid Cymru wants everyone across the health and care sector to be shown proper recognition for their dedication and care, and that includes putting care workers on the same terms as their health counterparts within a single, integrated health and care service for Wales.”

Rhun ap Iorwerth calls for Universal Testing of Social Care and Healthcare key workers

Plaid Cymru Shadow Minister for Health, Rhun ap Iorwerth MS, said:

“When the disease was at its peak, every day our key workers risked their lives to keep our critical services running. As the retail, tourism and hospitality industries start to reopen and our key workers will naturally come into contact with more people, it’s important we afford them peace of mind that regular testing can offer.

“We have underused testing capacity. We know that some people with coronavirus are asymptomatic. Our key workers are, by definition, going to come into contact with more people. Why wouldn’t we use all our testing capacity in making sure our highest risk key workers can benefit from this early warning system?

“I’m calling on Welsh Government to routinely test all high risk key workers – symptomatic or asymptomatic – starting with those in a social care or healthcare setting. There should be a wider strategy to bring in more asymptomatic people across other high risk or ‘high contact’ sectors into the testing system. Care workers and some NHS staff already have access to asymptomatic testing in England. It’s a pilot that is being widened to include those key workers deemed most at risk, or who have the highest contact with other members of the public.

“Whether it’s in caring for our loved ones, running our essential services or keeping us safe from harm, our key workers have more than lived up to their name during this crisis. The least we can do is care for them in return.”