PLANS to extend the Grange University Hospital's emergency department are scheduled for completion by spring 2025 - not even five years after the hospital opened.

The Aneurin Bevan University Health Board says it faces “sustained pressure” across the hospital system due to high case rates of respiratory viruses and high levels of staff sickness this winter.

Its plans to bolster the Grange hospital, in Llanfrechfa, Cwmbran, include a new extraction system to deal with fumes from waiting ambulances in order to create a “safer environment for patients and staff” while ambulance handover times are improved.

A letter from Welsh health minister Eluned Morgan MS to Monmouth MP David TC Davies reveals the health board has already spent £2,640 on installing fans to disperse ambulance fumes at the site.

“It is absolutely appalling that a health board is having to use thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money to buy fans to blow away diesel fumes from waiting ambulances,” Mr Davies said.

South Wales Argus: The health board has already spent £2,640 on installing fans to disperse ambulance fumes at the GrangeThe health board has already spent £2,640 on installing fans to disperse ambulance fumes at the Grange

“What I find even worse is that the problem has not been solved. I dread to think how much additional money this extension and extraction system is going to cost the taxpayer.

“Our NHS needs more support, and I urge the Welsh Labour government – which has been in charge of the health service in Wales since 1999 – to back down on its demand for health boards to make £65 million of cuts because it will put sites such as the Grange under even more pressure.”

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A Welsh Government spokesperson said its funding settlement, which comes mainly from the UK Government, did not reflect the “extreme pressures” on NHS services caused by high inflation and increasing demand.

They added that, despite allocating an extra £450 million to support the Welsh NHS in 2024/25, health boards were braced another “difficult year”.

'Source of the problem'

A spokesperson for the Aneurin Bevan health board said it was facing pressure on the “entire hospital system”.

They said: “The increase in the prevalence of winter illnesses across our communities has resulted in large numbers of patients presenting with respiratory viruses and high levels of staff sickness, which are both placing further pressure on our services and our staff.

“Whilst we have continued to work rapidly with our colleagues in the Welsh Ambulance Services to ensure the timely transfer of patients into our care, we recognise that some patients are waiting longer to receive care in the Emergency Department than we would want.

“In order to further improve ambulance handover delays and to meet the growing needs of our population, we have plans to extend the Emergency Department, which is expected to be completed by spring 2025.

“The extraction system that has been proposed as part of this extension will be implemented to improve the air flow around the department and create a safer environment for staff and patients.

“However, we recognise that this does not offer a solution to the source of the problem, and work will continue to reduce our ambulance handover times as much as possible.”