Glan Clwyd hospital bed numbers could be cut
Plans to cut bed numbers at one of north Wales' main hospitals as part of a major redesign are to be discussed later.
Betsi Cadwaladr health board is looking at a possible revamp of Ysbyty Glan Clwyd in Denbighshire.
The work would follow the urgent £77m asbestos removal from ceilings above operating theatres and corridors.
A proposed five-year strategy includes a "reduced reliance" on hospital beds but ministers would have the last word.
The health board's director of planning, Neil Bradshaw, will argue the case for reducing beds at the general hospital in Bodelwyddan.
No decision has been taken on how many beds will be removed and any decision made at the meeting will need to be referred to the Welsh Assembly Government for approval.
The board meeting will hear the outline case that "stripping much of the building back to the steel frame" during the asbestos works will create a "major opportunity to redesign and relocate" services and departments.
End Quote Neil Bradshaw Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board
There are long-standing and increasingly pressing issues at Glan Clywd hospital related to asbestos and fire safety compliance”
The board's five-year strategy places an emphasis on "a reduced reliance on hospital beds" as care and rehabilitation is provided in patients' homes or in the community via other health providers and some acute services are redistributed to Wrexham Maelor and Ysbyty Gwynedd, Bangor.
In the outline case Mr Bradshaw says: "The refurbishment will directly affect the 12 acute wards in the original H-block and the departments on the ground and first floors of the original building.
"There are long-standing and increasingly pressing issues at Glan Clywd hospital related to asbestos and fire safety compliance.
"These stem from the extensive use of asbestos in the construction of the original building."'No immediate risk'
The major concern is that the asbestos sprayed coating on the structural steelwork frame of the building is deteriorating.
The Health and Safety Executive ordered urgent works to remove the asbestos after two recent incidents: a leak above Wards 11 and 12 in January 2010 which meant there was a risk of asbestos falling onto the floor below and damage to the tiles above the main theatres corridor in November 2010.
The board has said the asbestos poses no "immediate risk" to patients' safety.
Asbestos is a problem when fibres become airborne and are inhaled, and can lead to life-threatening illness.
Board members will vote on whether to carry out just the asbestos works or to provide a new model of care along with the asbestos strip and thus fit in with the board's long-term strategy.
Both options would incur the same capital costs, but modernising the hospital's facilities is thought to help with overall efficiency savings when acute services are transferred to community care.
A total new-build has been ruled out because of the costs involved.