17,000 surgeries cancelled last year over beds 'gridlock'
MORE than 17,000 operations were cancelled last year as hospitals struggled to deal with the gridlock in overcrowded emergency units as well as industrial action.
That figure represents a 10pc increase on the previous year and means that more than 50,000 operations have now been cancelled since 2007.
HSE figures show that 14,903 operations were cancelled in 2007, 16,177 in 2008 and 17,761 in 2009.
Fine Gael's health spokesman James Reilly said the figures were "scandalous".
Some of the cancellations occurred because of industrial action against the Government's proposals to cut pay. In November, the HSE cancelled large numbers of non-emergency procedures for two days at the height of the industrial action.
But in hospitals such as Our Lady's Children's Hospital in Crumlin, operations were cancelled due to the unavailability of an intensive care bed.
Cancelling operations has become "ingrained" as a policy, for managing hospital gridlock brought about by overcrowded A&Es and a lack of acute beds for admission, Mr Reilly said.
The cancellations have also followed the delayed discharge of patients in acute beds who need to move to more appropriate care but have no place to go.
"The 50,000 operations cancelled and the increasing levels of cancellations are an indictment of the Health Minister's failures," he said.
"She has made no serious attempt to tackle the A&E crisis, despite a lot of big talk about it."
Hospitals with high rates of cancellations include the Mater Hospital, Adelaide & Meath Hospital, Cork University Hospital and Beaumont Hospital, according to figures published by the HSE.
The Fine Gael frontbench spokesman and deputy party leader said it was "not good enough" to plead that these operations were only postponed and rescheduled.
Cancelled operations had a real impact on patients because it meant important procedures were postponed, prolonging pain and delaying investigations that could lead to early detection of serious illnesses.