LLANELLI'S hospital will no longer have an A&E unit after Hywel Dda Health Board passed its final recommendations for change yesterday.
Members of the board met at St David's Hospital in Carmarthen for an extraordinary meeting to discuss its five proposals to shake up health services across the region.
And despite a 24,000-strong petition opposing the plans and a campaign with the support of clinicians at the hospital and GPs in the area, the board agreed unanimously to press on with plans to replace current services with a nurse-delivered unit.
Campaigners reacted furiously when a report appeared detailing the recommendations of Opinion Research Services, which was tasked with monitoring the consultation, made no mention of the petition.
But board members insisted they had taken all views into account, presenting a new proposal to allow a "clinically-led group to redesign an unscheduled care service for Prince Philip Hospital and the Llanelli community".
Retired consultant surgeon Hugh Evans said: "This is what I expected. They have been directed by Lesley Griffiths to make savings. A nurse-led service is not acceptable and will be positively dangerous.
"I was very disappointed to hear Dr Meurig Williams's view that this will be a great opportunity for us. It is nothing but downgrading."
Chairman of the Committee for the Improvement of Hospital Services (CIHS) Bryan Hitchman said he had little faith in the board.
He said: "It beggars belief; 24,000 people have in effect been ignored by ORS — 24,000 people have been disenfranchised."
Dr Phil Kloer, director of clinical services at the health board, said: "We have listened very carefully to what the public have said and our staff. We are maintaining the acute medical unit there. We will continue to look after acute medical conditions."
He admitted that even following the exercise, the service would be delivered "primarily by nurses".
Hywel Dda chairman Chris Martin said the board envisaged the changes would be in place within two years.
And he said the decision whether to have further public consultation would be discussed with the community health council.
Medical director of the board Dr Sue Fish said: "The way the service at Prince Philip is provided at the moment is not as safe as it could be.
"This change will be led by the staff who care for Llanelli residents and no change will be made until this clinically-led group judges that it is safe to do so."
Star comment on page 10, and more news on the hospital on pages 34 & 35.