A STATE-of-the-art renal unit for Pembrokeshire which will mean local people can be treated closer to home is on course for completion early next year.

Health Minister Mark Drakeford praised the facility during a visit to the Withybush Hospital site on August 28.

The £7.5million development, scheduled for completion in February 2014, will replace the current six-bay facility located in temporary buildings at the back of the hospital site.

With 21 treatment bays, it will also mean local people do not need to travel outside of Pembrokeshire for treatment – which can take up to five hours.

Mr Drakeford said the new unit would provide a “vitally important locals service”, and was part of the “big thrust” in Welsh health policy, with the aim being to move more services closer to home.

He also commended the ‘strong partnership between service users and staff’ that had led to the building’s eventual design.

Through discussion with renal patients, a ‘beach theme’ was decided on for the unit, using more natural light, pastel colours and works by local artists.

Christine Mackeen, patient advocate and chair of the Haverfordwest Kidney Wales committee, said she was very impressed with the building’s spacious, light and airy feel.

“I’ve watched it develop and it’s amazing,” she said.

“Patients’ views have definitely been taken into consideration every step of the way.”

Having undergone dialysis for several years, Paul Totterdale, from Carmarthen, said the unit would be of great benefit to local people and visitors to the county.

He said: “It’s a very draining treatment, and travelling only adds to it.

“The worst part is the cramps from them taking so much fluid, so sitting in a car for a long time afterwards only makes it worse.”

Hywel Dda Community Health Council (CHC) chairman Tony Wales: “It’s the first time I’ve seen inside, and obviously work is still in progress but I’m very impressed with the space.

“It will make a huge difference to patients.”

He added there was “no comparison” between the new unit and the existing temporary buildings.

“It’s long overdue, the CHC has been fighting for improved facilities for the people of Pembrokeshire for many years.”

“When we see the first patient come through the door, then we’ll be able to sit back and smile.”