THREE new operating theatres are a step closer at Swansea’s Singleton Hospital, and recruiting the staff needed to work in them is under way.
Swansea Bay University Health Board chiefs have agreed to push forward with the proposal, although a business case will need to be approved in due course.
The plan is to have the three “modular” theatres on site in 2023-24. They will focus initially on plastic surgery, general surgery, ear, nose and throat surgery, and oral and maxillofacial surgery.
Singleton Hospital currently has six theatres, but waiting lists have been stretched by the Covid pandemic and there are a huge amount of operations and procedures to get through.
Darren Griffiths, the health board’s director of finance and performance, said: “We need an uplift in surgical capacity.”
The health board expects the nine theatres at Singleton Hospital – assuming the three new ones materialise – to deal with 4,801 patients per year, up from 2,612 currently.
Some operations which currently take place at Morriston Hospital will move to the smaller Singleton site, in Sketty.
Mr Griffiths said the three modular theatres would be positioned behind the main hospital block, subject to heavy lifting equipment being able to access the area. This, he said, presented “an incredible logistical challenge”.
Staffing the three theatres and additional recovery ward will require 95 full-time staff and cost £7.3 million to £10 million per year. Preparing the ground for the theatres, which would be leased, and equipping them is projected to cost £5.9 million.
Health board members asked for assurances that sufficient staff could be recruited, how the theatres would be funded, what steps were being taken to improve theatre efficiency elsewhere across the health board, and whether additional theatre cleansing measures brought in during Covid would end.
Chief executive Mark Hackett said theatre performance was being looked into, and that it needed to improve alongside the acquisition of the new modular ones. “We’ve got to do both,” he said.
Debbie Eyitayo, the health board’s director of workforce and organisational development, said local and international recruitment was under way.
Dr Richard Evans, the health board’s medical director, said he was not aware of specific “step-down” measures relating to theatre cleansing but that he would bring the matter up with Welsh Government officials this week.
The health board has previously agreed an expansion of surgical capacity with an additional day case theatre at Singleton Hospital and an orthopaedic development at Neath Port Talbot Hospital.