THREE new operating theatres for orthopaedic and spinal procedures have opened at Neath Port Talbot Hospital and patients are already going under the knife.
The theatres are expected to make a dent in long waiting lists in Swansea Bay for things like hip, shoulder and back surgery which lengthened further during the coronavirus pandemic.
The operations have started and while Swansea Bay University Health Board is still recruiting staff to work in the complex it said recruitment had gone better then expected.
The building also comprises five pre-assessment rooms, accommodation for staff to change, rest rooms and a seminar room.
Orthopaedic consultant surgeon and clinical adviser to the project, Paul Williams, said: “The three new theatres have been built quickly and efficiently to meet the exacting standards of modern day orthopaedic and spinal surgery.”
They would, he said, allow some complex spinal surgery to take place away from the under-pressure acute hospital at Morriston, Swansea.
He added that waiting times in the area remained too long and that patients came to harm as a result.
The health board said the £21 million investment was another step in Neath Port Talbot Hospital, Morriston Hospital and Singleton Hospital becoming centres of excellence in specific areas. Neath Port Talbot Hospital will specialise in orthopaedics, spinal care and urology.
Unscheduled care pressures reduced the capacity for planned operations at Morriston Hospital for several years, meaning longer waits for patients. The situation deteriorated further in 2019, then further still during the Covid pandemic, which hit in March, 2020.
Orthopaedic and spinal waiting lists in Swansea Bay, which comprises Swansea and Neath Port Talbot, continue to be the highest in Wales.
The maximum capacity of the new theatres is an additional 3,000 or so operations per year, and the health board has submitted a funding bid to the Welsh Government to enable them to fulfil their potential. This could result in patients from further afield in Swansea West Wales being treated there.
More complex orthopaedic and spinal procedures will be carried out at Morriston Hospital. The new theatres were opened by the Minister for Health and Social Services, Eluned Morgan.