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Thursday 23 February 2017

Overcrowded Mater 'a zoo' as ward cancels surgery for week

Edel O'Connell

ONE of the country's largest hospitals had to cancel operations and out-patient appointments when it reached "dysfunctional status" as a result of overcrowding.

The Mater Hospital in Dublin cancelled all day surgical admissions to one of its largest wards last week as it struggled to provide beds for emergency patients.

A circular sent to senior management, and seen by the Irish Independent, stated that the hospital was at "Escalation Level 4" or "Dysfunctional Status" in recent days.

This is where there are 24-hour trolley waits for emergency patients, ambulances waiting more than 30 minutes for turnaround, at least 10 emergency cases waiting to be admitted and no beds available.

The circular also warned that at least 60 beds were required immediately and, as a result, all day cases due to come in to St Michael's surgical ward were cancelled for a week.

Meanwhile, people returning for urgent out-patient follow-up care also had their appointments cancelled.

An email circulated by Mater chief Brian Conlon stated: "I wish to notify managers that as of now we are at Escalation Level 4 (Dysfunctional Status) with 33 patients in the emergency department, the holding bay is full, St Camillus's is full plus we have deferred urgent out-patient department returns.

''At least 60 beds are required immediately. This is a very serious situation. Please inform your colleagues that an internal major incident is evoked."

The overcrowding led a senior consultant to compare the Mater to "a zoo".

Consultant ophthalmologist, Professor Michael O'Keeffe, who works at the Mater and Temple Street Hospitals, said surgeries were constantly being called off because of a lack of beds, and the problem was spilling into emergency care.

Prof O'Keeffe has warned that lives were being put at risk.

"The real issue here is emergency cases are now being affected. I had a man who suffered serious facial and eye injuries just last week who had to wait for four hours to get a bed," he said.

"I had to fight to get him into the operating room -- four hours with a very severe and eye and facial injury in an emergency room, that is madness.''

Prof O'Keeffe said he is constantly told there are no beds available.

"Most elective procedures were cancelled last week, which means more and more on the waiting lists and longer waiting times, it is a zoo in here," he said.

"It is is coming down to emergency patients coming under pressure, patients who simply must come in and have procedures done. It is now getting to a situation where lives are being put at risk," he warned.

The consultant said he believed the situation would worsen.

"Consultants don't fight anymore for their patients -- they take it as a fait accompli. When it comes to a situation where a consultant like me is having great difficulty admitting an emergency patient then something is radically wrong. When a patient is in severe pain and has to wait four hours for a bed that is very wrong. Nobody is prepared to stand up and be counted for the sake of their patients anymore," he said.

A Mater spokesman said the escalation plan was specifically designed and "evoked with patient safety in mind" in order to co-ordinate the management of increased admissions.

Irish Independent

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