WEST Wales’ hospitals are under ‘enormous and unprecedented pressure,’ with the Army drafted in to help with the national ambulance response.

Hywel Dda Health Board has warned that coronavirus infection rates in the community are having a direct impact on NHS services, ‘with many of our staff off sick or self-isolating’.

Early last week a Hywel Dda spokesperson warned that its hospitals, including Withybush in Haverfordwest, have been consistently ‘operating at the highest levels of emergency pressure’.

This has lead to increased delays in ambulance handovers, emergency waiting times and the number of patients waiting to be discharged.

“We are currently treating the highest number of inpatients with confirmed Covid-19 since the onset of the pandemic, and we are at a point where we must take urgent action to alleviate these pressures and mitigate potential risks to the quality and safety of care we provide to patients.”

To try to reduce some of the strain the health board initiated measures to allow the release of more clinical staff to support the virus response.

HDUHB has also asked that patients avoid calling to check if appointments have been cancelled.

Capacity at the field hospitals, including Bluestone in Pembrokeshire, is being expanded to ‘better manage patient capacity and flow’.

Nationally, the Wales Ambulance Service (WAS) Trust is being supported by the army, which will be placed alongside paramedics, operating as drivers or an extra pair of hands.

Mark Drakeford, the Welsh First Minister, warned at a press conference last week that Wales would see more deaths if the country does not ‘regain some control’.

The latest coronavirus figures from Public Health Wales(PHW) show 153 new cases were reported across Hywel Dda on Monday, December 28.

To date, 10,341 cases have been confirmed across the health board – 1,993 in Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire 7,199, and Ceredigion 1,149.

A total of 199 coronavirus-related deaths have been recorded across the health board to date.

Wales now has had a total of 141,915 confirmed cases and 3,383 people have died with suspected Covid-19.

The latest vaccine report from PHW, dated December 20, shows 22,595 people across the country have received their first vaccine dose. The number of Hywel Dda residents to receive their first dose is 2,706.

Andrew Carruthers, director of operations at Hywel Dda, said: “From the outset of the pandemic, the health board has anticipated and planned for the need to redeploy clinical staff into urgent and critical care roles. The measures we are taking are intended to protect patients with the most urgent clinical need while allowing us to reprioritise staff to mitigate the increasing risk of harm.”