Hospital blames flu outbreak for idle theatres
ONE of the country's leading children's hospitals has blamed swine flu for the findings of a damning report that revealed operating theatres were lying idle while hundreds waited for surgery.
The three Dublin hospitals -- Temple Street, Our Lady's Children's Hospital and Tallaght Hospital -- are heavily criticised in the unpublished report, which was commissioned by the HSE.
It found there was a significant shortfall in operations that could have been performed, and that shortfall was not down to a lack of resources or staffing issues.
It said if wide-ranging reforms in the planning and management of operations were introduced it would reduce waiting lists for children.
The report, seen by the Irish Independent, found Temple Street and Our Lady's were underusing theatre time by 28pc, and Tallaght Hospital was under using by 17pc. The report used a best practice target of 85pc -- acknowledging that theatres cannot operate at 100pc capacity.
The review, carried out by consultancy firm Meridian, was completed last year in advance of the building of the new national children's hospital, which plans to bring all three hospitals together at one site.
It found none of the hospitals had a dedicated emergency theatre and, as a result, emergency cases were being put into slots for planned operations which had a knock-on effect on waiting lists.
No hospital systematically operated a manual or computerised theatre management system, according to the report, and hospitals used 'block booking' theatre allocation to a fixed surgeon and speciality, which meant if the operation did not happen on time, the slot was lost forever.
Currently 325 children are waiting for procedures at Temple Street, while 37 children are waiting more than two years for operations at Crumlin hospital, where 1,134 kids are waiting over three months for inpatient and day-case procedures.
The report also found no departmental budgets or forecasts were being used to plan the use of resources.
However, one of the country's leading children's hospitals has refuted the report.
Our Lady's Children's Hospital Crumlin said the review was not representative of the children's hospital network as it was conducted during "an extraordinary week for the Irish healthcare system" which was struggling to deal with an outbreak of swine flu. It said this resulted in a marked decrease in surgical procedures.
The hospital drew up its own report in response and it states Crumlin Hospital was faced with "particular challenges as a result of the sudden loss of two of its general surgeons during that time" which resulted in theatre cancellations on four of the five days the hospitals were being reviewed.
It said both of these factors contributed to making it an entirely "atypical" week.
Sinn Fein health spokesman Caoimhghin O Caolain said Health Minister James Reilly had gotten off to a bad start in his first six weeks as minister.
"There's other evidence that Mr Reilly is not entirely on top of his brief. The very first piece of significant health legislation to come before the Dail this week (and) the minister was not present to take the 'report' stage," he said.
Mr O Caolain called on Dr Reilly to immediately publish the Meridian Theatre Review.
"If children are being forced to wait longer than necessary for operations then that is totally unacceptable and must be addressed urgently," he said.
A spokesman for Dr Reilly said there wasn't any particular significance to the fact that he hadn't been supplied with a copy of the report until it was revealed by the media.
A joint statement released by the three hospitals last night stated that since the report was conducted a clinical director, Dr Colm Costigan, had been appointed across all three hospitals to drive change.