Operations cancelled after suspected asbestos found at North Wales hospital

Health board shuts down six wards, cancels operations and diverts emergency ambulances after elevated air quality readings.

Bosses at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd were forced to “seal off” six wards, cancel operations and divert emergency ambulances this morning after suspected asbestos dust was found in the air.

Workmen wearing protective suits and breathing apparatus were seen going into the wards after air quality control tests revealed “elevated ratings” of an unconfirmed substance in the access corridors.

Wards including gastroenterology, respiratory, ear, nose and throat, general surgery, medicine, and trauma were shut to patients, visitors, staff and volunteers, and four patients had to be moved from a side ward. Six operations were cancelled, and Ysbyty Gwynedd and Wrexham Maelor Hospital provided support by taking “all but critically urgent” patients.

One man from Rhyl, who went to visit his dad on Ward 3, described the atmosphere as “total chaos”.

He said:

“They were sealing off the doors going into the wards and there must’ve been around eight to 10 managers and workmen outside the door to Ward 3 wearing protective suits and breathing apparatus. They must’ve been concerned to go to all that.

I asked if I could go in and see my dad who was due to have an operation but was told I couldn’t because there had been a ‘major incident’ and it was being sealed off so no one could enter or leave. My dad’s operation was cancelled as they couldn’t take beds off the ward.

I was able to get into the ward by climbing up the old fire escape steps which were covered in dust and debris. There was an old woman climbing up as well who I had to help. She was 72, a cancer sufferer and had breathing difficulties and couldn’t use the lift because that had been sealed off too. She was going to visit relatives.”

A spokesman for Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board said air monitoring tests had picked up “elevated readings” of an unconfirmed substance and the board’s asbestos management controls were put into place.

Ysbyty Glan Clwyd is currently in the middle of a £90m redevelopment project to rebuild and revamp the hospital with new state-of-the-art facilities.

Bosses have previously defended the “building site look” emphasising they were trying to build a new hospital from within while continuing to offer 100% service.

The tests are carried out each morning to “ensure work is undertaken safely”. The spokesman said:

“This reduction in access is purely precautionary and there is no cause for concern at this stage. We anticipate that we will be able to re-open the access areas in the next few hours, following a full environmental clean and testing the air quality again.

We would appreciate your cooperation and help in maintaining the usual standards of health care despite the challenging situation. The health and safety of our patients and staff is paramount during this situation.”

All six wards were re-opened by 4.15pm.

A Welsh Ambulance Service spokesperson added:

“Following a decision by Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board to restrict access to some wards at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, we agreed jointly that ambulances would be temporarily diverted to either Wrexham Maelor Hospital or Bangor’s Ysbyty Gwynedd while the situation was resolved and in order to support our colleagues. We appreciate that this is not ideal, but the health and safety of our staff and patients must always come first.”