In December 2004 one of the people who subsequently founded SWAT stood outside the Moon and Sixpence in Haverfordwest handing out leaflets warning the public of threats to services at Withybush. He suffered a 5 week suspension from the hospital for this action. Nevertheless he continued to be vigilant and in September 2005 orchestrated a mass rally of people to attend the Pembrokeshire & Derwen AGM. At this AGM he demonstrated the power of the truth to the Board and following this meeting he was approached by Cherie Harvey, a Haverfordwest Town councillor at the time. They agreed to form a group to save Withybush and people were invited to join them. He became and remains Chairman of SWAT and Cherie became Vice chair and secretary. Tony Miles was voted in as Treasurer and remains to this day in that post. David Williams was asked to be webmaster but he did not continue in this role after the first campaign.
Our first demonstration was in October 2005 outside Withybush and was well attended and stimulated media interest. People were loathe to believe us at this time and the Health service managers and even the then health Minister Brian Gibbons denounced us and claimed "there are no plans to downgrade Withybush". It was only after the publication of the document 'Designed to Deliver' in 2006 that the true plans were revealed. We fought against the health service management and with the help of the people of Pembrokeshire and the Community Health Council stopped the downgrading of Withybush in its tracks.
Public meetings were organized by the Community Health Council under the then chairmanship of Geoff Wright who obtained votes from each meeting on two questions "Should Withybush be downgraded?" and "Should the three NHS Trusts of Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire be merged into one?". These meetings were attended by thousands in total. Massive votes were obtained against the proposals, thereby conveying a resounding message of rejection to the managers and the Welsh Assembly.
Members of SWAT also gave presentations to various local groups such as the Women's Institute, Rotary and Soroptomists. We held street presentations, a fund-raising ball, distributed leaflets, organized a petition, and publicized the issues in local press and radio. We visited the Senedd twice. We were featured in the BBC Wales news and in the current affairs program "Dragon's Eye".The meetings were held in towns all over the county, including Haverfordwest, Milford Haven, Neyland, Pembroke, Narberth, Tenby, Crymych, St Davids and Fishguard.
Ashley Warlow and colleagues from the CHC together with members of SWAT ran a stand at the annual Haverfordwest County Show at Withybush Airfield.The petition with thousands of signatures was delivered to the Welsh Assembly at the Senedd in Cardiff on 16th May 2006, with three busloads of demonstrators spending the day there. Members of SWAT met Brian Gibbons Health minister and various Assembly Members, and attended a debate on the NHS.
We sadly have lost three of our most indefatigable members to illness. Cherie Harvey who organized a highly successful fund-raising ball, delivered our petition and famously accosted the First Minister Rhodri Morgan who responded with 'Oh, yes, Withybush, a lovely hospital' (with which of course we all agree). John Phillips, a retired Consultant Gynaecologist, Welsh speaker and raconteur, and Bill Philpin, Pembrokeshire County Councillor who was a wise sage. All will be sorely missed.
Take a look at some of the photographs from our day at the Senedd, and at a slideshow of the same.