An MS is “frustrated” after the Health Minister admitted that the plan to build a new community hospital in Rhyl could be scrapped.
Llyr Gruffydd who represents North Wales in the Senedd, has accused the Welsh Government of “preparing the ground to break its promise” to local residents to build the facility.
The Plaid Cymru politician pressed Eluned Morgan on whether the North Denbighshire Community Hospital would actually be built, during a recent debate in the Senedd.
In response the Welsh Government minister said it was up to Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) to decide whether it wanted to build the community hospital or a new orthopaedic centre in North Wales.
The minister suggested that the orthopaedic centre should be prioritised because of a high waiting list for treatment, but added that it was ultimately up to the health board to decide.
The Welsh Government originally announced that a new hospital would be built on the former Royal Alexandra site in Rhyl way back in 2013.
The proposal for the new hospital included community beds, a same day minor injuries and illness service, a treatment zone, outpatient therapy services, sexual health, community dental, radiology, adult psychology and mental health services.
The project has been beset by delay, and since it was announced, the estimated cost has ballooned from £22m to around £80m.
Back when First Minister Mark Drakeford was the Health Minister, he said that he hoped the brand new hospital would be delivered by 2016.
The former Chief Executive of BCUHB, Jo Whitehead, subsequently claimed that work on the hospital was set to begin no later than December 3, 2021, subject to the necessary funding being released by the Welsh Government.
Llyr Gruffydd MS told the Senedd: “The Royal Alexandra Hospital in Rhyl was closed in 2009, with a pledge that it would be redeveloped. Indeed, community hospitals were closed on the back of that pledge to redevelop the Royal Alex.
“There was a business case in 2021, which highlighted the need to redevelop it. Fourteen years later, we are still waiting for that to happen.
“The health board is waiting for the Government to confirm whether funding will be available, the county council, which discussed this recently, is still waiting, and residents and patients in the north are still waiting.
“Now, in light of the budgetary challenges that you have outlined to us, you can answer one of two questions—you can choose which one to answer.
“Either you can tell us when we will see the redevelopment of the Royal Alex in Rhyl, or perhaps you would prefer to tell us whether we will ever see the redevelopment of the Royal Alex in Rhyl?”
Eluned Morgan replied: “There needs to be a decision on this; there needs to be a prioritisation. Now, it's going to be difficult for the health board to prioritise.
“I'm very keen, for example, to see an improvement in the numbers that receive orthopaedic treatment in north Wales—the waiting lists are too long. And so, there will be a need to weigh up whether you want a new orthopaedic centre or the redevelopment of the Royal Alex.
“I don't think that's a decision for me; I think it's a decision that the board has to weigh up in terms of what the most important thing is at present.”
Speaking after the debate in the Senedd, Llyr Gruffydd MS said: “The Health Minister has effectively admitted that the North Denbighshire Community Hospital in Rhyl might not be built after all.
“The Welsh Government promised the people of the area that they would get this much-needed facility and it’s frustrating to learn that there is enormous doubt whether the project will now go ahead.
“It very much looks like the Welsh Government is preparing the ground to break its promise and lay all of the blame at the door of the health board.
“It should be remembered that this project was originally announced over a decade ago.
“Patients in Rhyl, Prestatyn and the surrounding areas will understandably be hugely concerned that they will not get what they were promised by Welsh Labour.
“Communities in this area, which include some of the most deprived in Wales, have been continually let down by the Tories in Westminster and Labour in Cardiff Bay.
“They are in desperate need of new health facilities, as well as the regeneration that would come with the investment in a project like this.
“The Welsh NHS is in a state of crisis and this new hospital would do much to relieve pressure on the health service in the area, especially on Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, which is under intense pressure at the moment.
“Dither and delay by Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board and the Welsh Government is unacceptable because the proposal will become increasingly expensive with costs already having nearly quadrupled from £22m since it was announced to around £80m.
“Had they moved quicker, not only would the local community have the health services it’s crying out for, but it also would have been much more affordable for the taxpayer.
“While it is certainly the case that waiting times for orthopaedic treatment need to be tackled, the Welsh Government shouldn’t have got itself into a position where it was forcing the health board to choose between that and building the North Denbighshire Community Hospital.”