Open letter to Health Minister calling for greater testing capacity in the north

Rhun ap Iorwerth is one of a group of Plaid Cymru AMs and MPs in north Wales to have written to Welsh Government Health Minister Vaughan Gething warning that the people of north Wales could be subject to a “postcode lottery” due to issues with test and the level of testing carried out in the region.

Plaid Cymru’s Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Ynys Môn) Sian Gwenllian AM and Hywel Williams MP (Arfon), Liz Saville Roberts MP (Dwyfor Meirionydd) and Llyr Gruffydd AM (north Wales) have all co-signed the open letter which calls on the Welsh Government to take “every conceivable step” to ensure north Wales wouldn’t be left behind in tackling the Coronavirus pandemic.

The letter cites several examples of Covid-19 patients having to wait “extensive periods of time” for results including a nurse working at Wrexham Maelor having to wait 72 hours for their test results to return from Cardiff.

Other examples includes concerns from GPs in Arfon of the length of time test results take to be returned to their patients and of a key worker patient whose test was lost after two weeks of waiting for a result.

Noting the importance of having a “robust testing framework in place”, the Plaid Cymru representatives said there was capacity in north Wales to develop further testing and process results with equipment available to virologists at Bangor University and Ysbyty Glan Clwyd.

Health Minister Vaughan Gething confirmed this week that a testing centre would be developed in the north but admitted it would be “another 10 days” before it would be established.

Plaid Cymru said this showed a “continued lack of urgency” and called for plans to be “urgently fast-tracked”.

The letter from north Wales’ Plaid Cymru AMs and MPs reads,

“Not only are we still not carrying out enough tests in Wales, but we are seeing significant issues with tests and the level of testing carried out in the north of Wales specifically.

“We have been made aware of many instances where possible Covid-19 patients are having to wait extensive periods of time for results to arrive after the tests are initially carried out. One particular instance that has been brought to our attention is that of a nurse and her son in the Wrexham Maelor area waiting over 72 hours for test results to be delivered despite your assurance that tests results can be processed in 24 hours.

“We know there is capacity here in North Wales for further testing to be done and for results to be processed, with the equipment available to virologists at Bangor University and Ysbyty Glan Clwyd.

“Whilst we appreciate that there are plans to develop a testing centre in the north as is currently being developed in the south, we are asking you to urgently fast track such a centre for our region. The suggestion yesterday that it would be another 10 days before such facilities are established shows continued lack of urgency.

“The Welsh Government must take every conceivable step to make sure that north Wales isn’t left behind in tackling this pandemic.

“Testing is a central part to combating this virus and the procedures in place thus far in Wales have not been sufficient. The people of the north appear to be at a particular disadvantage, and must not become the victims of a postcode lottery – particularly during a time of such unprecedented crisis.”