Routine surgery is postponed across north Wales
The majority of planned surgery across north Wales this week has been postponed due to "increased pressure".
Wrexham Maelor hospital, Ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor and Glan Clwyd in Bodelwyddan are affected, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board says.
Urgent operations and day surgery will continue, and eye and orthopaedic surgery at Abergele Hospital.
Health Minister Mark Drakeford described the decision as "regrettable" but "sensible and proportionate".
The health board said a rise in emergency health care had led to significant pressures on its A&E departments.Escalation procedures
End Quote Prof Matt Makin BCUHB
This is not a decision that we have taken lightly”
Many patients have been elderly and frail and they are having to stay in hospital longer which has resulted in increased pressure on beds.
In a statement, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) said: "As part of our normal escalation procedures for dealing with such pressures, the health board has therefore decided to reduce routine planned surgery at the three hospitals for this week.
"Urgent operations, such as those for patients with cancer, will still go ahead as will eye surgery and orthopaedic surgery at Abergele Hospital and day case procedures.
"This situation is being reviewed on a daily basis."'Under constant review'
Responding to an urgent question in the assembly, Mr Drakeford said the suspension in non-urgent surgery was due to stay in place until Monday but that health managers would review the situation on Thursday.
He said the health board had faced "a particularly high level of emergency call" especially from elderly patients with complicated needs.
He also said ward closures due to norovirus - the winter vomiting bug - had made the situation more difficult.
Mr Drakeford told AMs that Welsh government officials were in daily contact with the health board to assess the situation.
Prof Matt Makin, medical director and director of clinical services, said: "I want to apologise to every patient who will be inconvenienced by this decision.'Log-jammed'
"I know that people have to make special arrangements so that they can come into hospital for an operation and I am sorry for the difficulties and disruption that this will cause.
"This is not a decision that we have taken lightly.
"However, we have to make sure that we are able to provide safe services for people who need emergency care, and at the moment our hospitals are facing very severe pressures.
"We will be keeping the situation under constant review, and will make arrangements to re-book patients for their treatment as soon as possible."
The move comes two weeks after an internal health board email revealed Wrexham Maelor hospital was "log-jammed" and others in north Wales were in a similar situation.
The email which was sent to BCUHB staff urged "any actions necessary to facilitate discharge" of patients.'Worrying'
North Wales Lib Dem AM Aled Roberts said the announcement was very worrying.
He said: "Many patients are already waiting too long until they receive treatment, it's therefore a concern that many will now have to wait even longer.
"This announcement has been very sudden. It is essential that if the health board is considering extending the suspension of services beyond next Monday, then patients are informed as soon as possible."
The Conservatives' shadow health minister Darren Millar said it was a worrying shut down that communities did not deserve.
He said: "The vulnerable and elderly will be hit hardest and families will rightly question the reasons behind this crisis.'Underlying problems'
"The simple fact is that Welsh Labour's inability to recruit permanent staff, and Carwyn Jones's legacy of record-breaking NHS cuts, have left health boards hanging by a thread."
The campaign group North Wales Health Alliance said it warned last year that bed losses would put extra pressure on district general hospitals.
Spokesman Mabon ap Gwynfor said: "Since then we've had a new health minister, a new chief executive and a new chairman of Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board.
"But we're still facing the same problems because none of them have so far tackled the underlying problems within the health service in the north."
North Wales Plaid Cymru AM Llyr Gruffydd said the cancellations will "do nothing to ease the growing sense of crisis at Betsi Cadwaladr and the NHS in the north".
He said: "This latest cancellation of surgery just postpones the problem and creates further backlog.
"I don't know to what extent this is a knee-jerk reaction to Mr [Fred] Pring but it's high time that the Welsh Health Minister got a grip of the situation here in north Wales."