I was expecting about twenty or so to be there - which was why Pam was on her own making the coffee. But when I walked in at around 10.15 this morning, the Corn Exchange at Welshpool was already full. Must have been at least 60 people, and they kept on coming. We were launching a local action committee to campaign for the provision of a renal dialysis service in the town. By the launch time of 11.00, there were around 100 people there. We'd had to marshall some of them to man the coffee and the raffle. And now for the background.
For many years there had been demand for a satellite renal dialysis unit attached to Welshpool Hospital. A previous Assembly Minister went so far as to promise one - a promise that was broken. For many years the local hospital League of Friends had raised money for the unit, and had reached the point where they had to consider spending the money on something else. So last summer I invited the Chair of Kidney Foundation Wales to meet the LoF, and he suggested a local action committee, operating under the umbrella of his organisation. Its taken a while to pull things together. We did it today.
Things have moved on elsewhere as well. Edwina Hart, the Assembly Health Minister has set aside money to increase dialysis capacity in Wales. And on Jan 6th, there was a comprehensive 'working group' of all and sundry in the dialysis field held in Cardiff, charged with advising Edwina Hart on priorities deserving of investment. Powys and Gwynedd were placed top of the list. I had thought about abandoning the action committee - but we've seen so many false dawns that I abandoned the thought instead.
This has become something of a 'litmus' issue in Montgomeryshire, which will inform us whether the area features on the Assembly Government's map of Wales at all. If this unit doesn't go ahead now, the reputation of the National Assembly for Wales will plummet. And I don't just mean the Assembly Government either (before someone points out the difference). I mean the whole shooting match, and the principle of devolution with it.