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Monday, 29 April, 2002, 15:21 GMT 16:21 UK
Why the row over Wales's children's hospital?
BBC Wales's Susie Phillips with children hospital images
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By Susie Phillips
BBC Wales's health correspondent

Three senior hospital doctors from Swansea, have said that plans for a children's hospital for Wales will provide no extra services for and that the money could disappear into a 'black hole'.

A walk across Wales by former cricketer Ian Botham has just raised 600,000 for the public appeal to help build the hospital.

News Online takes a look at the history of the Noah's Ark Appeal which has led to the controversy.

The idea of creating Wales's own children's hospital was first mooted at a meeting of a high-profile fundraising committee made up of various people including some of Wales's leading businessmen.

Basically, they met and asked 'what can we raise money for now?' There followed a discussion along the lines that Wales should really have its own children's hospital.

The committee consulted hospitals, who acknowledged that currently facilities for the care of children were indeed out-of-date. And so fundraising began.

Charlotte Church and Catherine Zeta Jones
Charity walk: Charlotte Church and Catherine Zeta Jones

There was never any suggestion that certain areas of specialised surgery - heart and kidney for example - would be carried out in this new hospital.

Because of the relatively small size of Wales's population, the Royal College of Surgeons have come to the conclusion that employing highly specialised surgeons in certain fields to work in Wales alone, was simply not viable.

Up until a few years ago there was a paediatric heart surgeon based in Wales. But when he left, the Royal College of Surgeons did not think replacing him was a viable option.

It is not an unfamiliar site in children's wards to see a beleaguered parent squashed in the corner of a single cubicle on a rickety camp-style bed.

Susie Phillips, health correspondent
A huge report was carried out by the Specialised Health Service Commission.

So, to cut a long story short, an arrangement with centres of excellence was struck - children in south Wales requiring heart or kidney surgery, would be operated on in Bristol. Similarly, in north Wales, children would be referred to Alder Hey.

More pleasant experience

Before and after their surgery, however, children are cared for in Welsh hospitals and it is in this area that the new children's hospital is hoping to make a difference.

It had long been noted that accommodation for children - who need to be accompanied by relatives - fell short of the required standards.

For example, it is not an unfamiliar site in children's wards to see a beleaguered parent squashed in the corner of a single cubicle on a rickety camp-style bed.

And that was the area that the appeal to build a children's hospital was concerned with - accommodation.

Phase one of the hospital aims to provide good accommodation for children and their parents - to make post-operative recovery a more pleasant experience.

Hospital renal unit
Renal unit: Children are treated in Bristol

Phase two hopes to provide some operating theatres and x-ray facilities but not in the specialist fields of cardiac (heart) and renal (kidney) surgery.

Some cynics might put this latest row - of surgeons in Swansea decrying the idea of a children's hospital that won't offer anything extra to children in Wales - as the emergence of a long-standing rivalry between Cardiff and Swansea in term of medical facilities.

Indeed, the huge publicity of Ian Botham being joined this weekend by Catherine Zeta Jones and Charlotte Church at the close of his fundraising walk across Wales, might have lead people to believe that the new hospital will be a panacea for children's health care across Wales.

It won't. Things will largely continue as normal. The only difference is that children will be cared for in a more comfortable, family-friendly, centralised manner.

And as any parent can appreciate, that's a start at least.

Links to more Wales stories are at the foot of the page.

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Links to more Wales stories