A second Welsh health board has decided to postpone some non-urgent care and appointments due to soaring cases of coronavirus.
Health Minister Vaughan Gething confirmed on Monday that Swansea Bay University Health Board, which covers Swansea and Neath Port Talbot, has postponed “some surgery and outpatient appointments”.
It follows Aneurin Bevan UHB which made a similar decision to suspend non-urgent care over the weekend.
During the Welsh Government’s press conference on Monday, Mr Gething said: “Health boards are making difficult decisions to pause some normal services to focus on winter and pandemic pressures.
“Swansea Bay University Health Board, for example, has postponed some surgery and outpatient appointments. This will help in the difficult days and weeks ahead.”
Chris White, chief operating officer at Swansea Bay UHB, said increasing Covid-19 pressures mean that some planned surgery has to be postponed to “free up beds and resources for emergency care”.
“Orthopaedic operations scheduled at Neath Port Talbot Hospital from Monday, December 14 will now be postponed. We are keeping the situation under continual review and will re-schedule them as soon as we can in the New Year,” he said.
“We are contacting the patients affected directly and apologising for the distress and disappointment this will have caused them. As soon as we are in a position to re-start elective orthopaedic surgery we will contact them with fresh dates for their operations.”
Mr White said the decision will not affect emergency trauma and orthopaedic surgery which will continue at Morriston Hospital in Swansea.
He added that some of the most urgent patients who were due to be treated at Neath Port Talbot Hospital may now have their surgery at Morriston instead.
“However it is not possible to move all of the Neath Port Talbot operating list to Morriston,” he added.
“Day surgery at Neath Port Talbot Hospital will continue as beds are not needed for this group of patients.
“Postponing planned orthopaedic surgery at Neath Port Talbot Hospital will give us access to additional beds which are much needed as numbers of Covid-19 infections are soaring locally and putting significant pressures on NHS services.
“We are also suspending all non-essential face-to-face outpatient appointments, and each speciality is currently working through which sessions will be postponed. Patients who are affected will be contacted directly. Otherwise, patients should continue to attend their appointment.”
Health Minister Vaughan Gething stressed that the current situation in Wales was “very serious”, with hospitals seeing more coronavirus patients in hospital than in the first wave of the pandemic.
According to latest figures, the average number of confirmed or suspected Covid-19 cases in all Welsh hospitals on December 13 was 1,343, with an additional 593 patients recovering in hospital. Of the 28 invasive ventilated beds available in Wales on December 13, there was just one available in the Swansea Bay UHB area.
The rolling seven-day Covid-19 case rate in Swansea is 667.2 per 100,000 population, while Neath Port Talbot’s is even higher at 770.3 per 100,000. The Wales average now stands at 450.4 per 100,000.