A Holyhead surgery has cast doubt over calls to turn a former Woolworths into a designated health centre, confirming that it plans to remain at its current premises while launching a staunch defence of its services despite the Covid-19 crisis.
There have been calls, spearheaded by the island’s Senedd Member, to transform the former Woolworths on Market Street into an integrated health centre following the recent health board takeover of two surgeries in the town.
But after a letter was sent to the Chair of the Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board claiming that the town’s remaining standalone surgery was facing its own issues, the practice has issued a staunch defence and clarified that locum staff have been taken on in the meantime to cover shortfall.
Writing to Mark Polin on Friday, Rhun ap Iorwerth MS said that following the takeover of the Cambria and Longford Road surgeries, it was his understanding that Victoria surgery was also now facing staff shortages in crucial roles including GPs and dispensing.
Clarifying his comments during a Facebook live session on Monday, he added that it was not his intention to criticise the work of the surgery nor the staff, describing it as “fantastic” but had concerns over general primary care in the area and wanted to see further development to provide a full health and care service in the community.
But in a statement on Tuesday, Victoria Surgery’s partners stressed their belief that they are only facing the same difficulties as any other surgery across Wales and the UK as part of the ongoing battle against Covid-19.
It continues to operate a service mainly via telephone/video consultation with patients having face to face consultations when the GP feels is required, in line with national guidelines.
But stressing that any suggestions that the surgery was in difficulty was not representative of their current situation, a spokesperson said: “We feel this will have caused unnecessary concern to our patients about what the future service for them may be .
“Like many surgeries across Wales and the UK we have had to make major changes to service provision as a result of Covid-19.
“It is currently difficult to see when these will end and indeed what normal will look like in the future as regards primary care provision, but causing inappropriate anxiety is not helpful.
“The staffing issues mentioned in our case are directly related to Covid-19 caused by shielding of vulnerable staff and medium term ill health as a result of Covid infection.
“We fully anticipate that in the future our staffing levels will be maintained at sustainable levels and have put in significant extra locum cover and nurse practitioner appointments to maintain the service to our patients in the interim.”
According to Mr ap Iorwerth, the former Woolworths would be “ideal” to be developed as a specialist health centre to serve the whole town and wider catchment area.
This, he believes, would boost footfall in the town centre as well as take advantage of the town centre parking, but also stressed that such a centre anywhere in the town was a priority.
He added: “Other options are being considered, of course, but I have put forward that idea, as it was drawn to my attention, to the health board, and I hope that the local authority will take it seriously too.
“That kind of initiative is one that truly ties in a number of elements that we need to do in order to have an impact on our town centres, and it deserves detailed consideration.”
But in response, a Victoria Surgery spokesperson added: “The proposed site at Woolworths we would not regard as a suitable site for combined surgeries for Holyhead and currently there is no plan for us to move from our existing premises.”