A WELL-respected former A&E nursing sister who worked at Glan Clwyd Hospital’s emergency department for more than 30 years has described the current working conditions under the special measures health board as “appalling”.

Mair Dowell, who has worked in A&E departments for more than 50 years – 35 years of them at the A&E department Ysbyty Glan Clwyd – said community hospitals “magically” popped up during the pandemic – such as Ysbyty Efnys Rainbow Hospital in Llandudno - and they urgently need to appear “now”.

The 75-year-old, of St Asaph, has written an open letter calling on the “powers that be” to intervene.

Mair, who also worked in the Accident Unit War Memorial Hospital in Rhyl, felt compelled to write the letter and put her head above water after a recent visit to the Bodelwyddan hospital and the disappointing report by Healthcare Inspectorate Wales (HIW) in March which concluded the Glan Clwyd Hospital’s A&E remains a service requiring “significant improvement”. 

She feels “excellent, dedicated staff” are being “broken” and working conditions are “beyond belief”.

“Staff of all disciplines who work in the emergency department are suffering the most appalling working conditions - that is seeing patients, some of whom are very ill, in extreme distress, discomfort and frightened,” Mair said.

“How can things improve when the staff have been given no tools to improve them with? What are the tools they need?

“There is a simple answer - beds to admit patients into. Until there can be a flow of patients through the department things cannot improve. We need community hospitals and we need them urgently.


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“I had occasion to visit someone on the department at 8am. There was a sea of yellow ambulances outside and patients all over the department – some lying and some sitting on the floor in the corridors as well as in the waiting room. Rows of ‘easy’ chairs were lined up on the corridor for patients to sit in and many of these patients were receiving intravenous therapy - this is not safe – but there is nothing else the staff can do.

“I spoke to a lady sitting in the waiting room who told me she had been there for 13 hours waiting for a bed she was almost 91. Another person told me that their relative who was poorly had been in an ambulance outside for 15 hours –these are just two people who spoke to me. I also noticed that walls have been knocked down and doors removed, this making it impossible for staff to have confidential talks with the patients, indeed consultations often seem to have to take place on the corridors.

“One lady in the waiting room was too scared to go to the toilet as she was frightened to lose her seat.


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“I have to emphasise here that this is not the fault of the A&E staff - they themselves are at breaking point and I know that many of them go home very concerned about the patients that they have left in the department, frightened, in pain and feeling abandoned.

“During the pandemic, hospitals ‘magically appeared’. We need community hospitals and we need them now.”

Mair said working conditions in the A&E department have changed “beyond belief” in her view.

She feels Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB), which is back in special measures, has become “far too big”.

She full supports a campaign, launched by cllr Brian Jones, Rhyl Ty Newydd ward, to reinstate beds at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Rhyl.


Mair, who was sister Dowell when she worked in A&E and during her last few years prior to retirement, liaison nurse, said: “Since the refurbishment of Glan Clwyd Hospital, there are six less beds on every ward.

“I 100 per cent agree with reinstating beds at the Royal Alexandra Hospital - and we need them urgently. There are no community care beds in Rhyl or Prestatyn following the closure of the Alex and Chatsworth House in Prestatyn and by now there is only one ward open in Denbigh Community Hospital.

“Rhyl was promised that the Royal Alexandra Hospital would be ‘done up’ and open as a ‘state of the art’ Community Hospital. It should have been open about eight years ago.

“BCUHB needs to get back to basics The place seems to be top heavy with administrators – not nursing or medical and the staff don’t know them.

“I remember when the chief executive was based in the hospital and he would walk around every day, he knew people by name and people knew him - he talked to people staff and patients he therefore knew what was going on and what the problems were.

"I want to raise awareness of the horrendous situation in the A&E just to try and get the ‘powers that be' to do something. It is just heartbreaking.  

"I know I am now retired so not officially a nurse but  ‘once a nurse always a nurse’."

BCUHB did not wish to comment.