A health board has cancelled planned operations at four of its hospitals “in the interest of patient safety”.
Hywel Dda University Health Board made the decision after “an extraordinary weekend” of “critical pressures”.
On Monday, inpatient operations were cancelled at Bronglais, Glangwili, Prince Philip and Withybush hospitals in mid and west Wales.
The health board said it had contacted the patients affected and outpatient appointments continued as normal.
No decisions have been taken yet to cancel more non-emergency operations on Tuesday, it added.
Dr Philip Kloer, the health board’s medical director, said the weekend saw hospitals “at a level of escalation not seen before”.
“It is in the interest of patient safety that we have postponed planned operations today,” he added.
“I understand this may be frustrating for those who have waited for their operation and I apologise for this.”
He said the health board would redeploy staff where additional support was needed, including contacting those on leave.
“We are also working with our colleagues in the local authority and the families of those well enough to be discharged to ensure our medically well can go home or to an appropriate care setting as soon as possible,” Dr Kloer added.
In a statement, the health board said “critical pressures” had been felt across all of its hospital accident and emergency (A&E) departments, GPs and community services.
Figures published last month showed accident and emergency performance at hospitals in Wales was at a record low for the third month running and the Welsh Ambulance Service failed to meet its response time target for the first time in four years.
‘Patients deserve so much better’
Plaid Cymru’s shadow minister for health, Helen Mary Jones, said the decision to cancel operations was “deeply concerning”.
Ms Jones said it suggested that there was a “serious issue of under resourcing” across the entire health board’s region and said it was all happening “under Labour’s watch”.
She said that patients in Wales “deserve so much better”.
Angela Burns, the Welsh Conservatives’ shadow health minister, said: “It seems that Wales’ NHS suffers from extraordinary pressures month in, month out.
“What I find extraordinary is that the Welsh Labour Government cannot manage the NHS in Wales nor can it plan for the new year and winter, bearing in mind that it has been, so far, a very mild season.”
Speaking on Monday morning, First Minister Mark Drakeford said the health service had been “under very significant pressure over the last two weeks”.
“But the plans that were laid for winter pressures and the £30m that the Welsh Government provided earlier than ever in the year to allow health boards to prepare for winter are holding up, together with our partners in local authorities,” he said.
Mr Drakeford added that the system “continues to respond positively” to the pressure.
What about other health boards?
Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board also said it was under “extreme pressure” in its emergency departments.
It reminded the public: “A&E is for serious accidents or emergencies only!
“There are plenty of other health services that can help with health conditions such as your local dentist, optician, pharmacist, GP or minor injury units.”
Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board said “a very small number” of routine procedures had been postponed at Abergele Hospital in Conwy county on Friday.
On Monday it said there were no reports of operation cancellations as a result of pressures, but said its emergency department was “very busy” and urged people to consider using GPs, pharmacies, and minor injury units instead.
It added that “staff across the health board are continuing to work hard to deliver care to patients”.
NHS Confederation Wales, the independent membership body for all local health boards and NHS Trusts, said hospitals were “extremely busy”.