Sunday 26 January 2020

Cancer patients have surgery cancelled as hospitals faced with record overcrowding

Flu outbreak: Simon Harris said lack of isolation wards not helping. Photo: Frank McGrath
Flu outbreak: Simon Harris said lack of isolation wards not helping. Photo: Frank McGrath
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Patients with breast, prostate or bowel cancer were among those enduring the distress of having their surgery cancelled as hospitals struggled with the winter health crisis, doctors said yesterday.

The decision to cancel life-enhancing surgery for patients with conditions such as cancer – where it is accepted that early surgical intervention is key to better long-term health outcomes – was condemned by Dr Donal O’Hanlon, head of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association.

“No hospital consultant wants to tell a patient waiting for essential breast or prostate cancer surgery that their critical treatment has been cancelled and, worse still, that they are not in a position to tell that patient when it will be rescheduled,” he said.

A range of surgical procedures involving cancer patients were postponed in the south and south-west, including at Cork University Hospital.

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The warning came as the public suffered another day of misery with 760 patients again on trolleys and chairs waiting for a hospital bed yesterday morning.

Six children were on trolleys – four of them in Temple Street – in the three Dublin children’s hospitals.

Hospitals across the country were forced to break the news to scores of patients who were due for admission for surgery that there was no bed free for them.

A spokeswoman for the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group said that as part of planning for winter they reduce scheduled operations in advance.

“Where re-scheduling is necessary, involving less than 10 on Monday, these patients will be seen at the earliest opportunity,” said the spokeswoman.

“We apologise to those patients who are affected. Cancer surgery remains unaffected. Activity will be reviewed daily.”

Nurses have called for all non-urgent operations to be cancelled, but Health Minister Simon Harris said no union should make this decision and it was a matter for clinical judgment.

He promised 199 additional hospital beds will be opened by the end of the month and said 55 had already become available.

Meanwhile, it emerged that despite the high levels of flu circulating, less than half of hospital healthcare workers have had the jab for the virus this winter.

Only 45pc have received the flu vaccine, although they were encouraged to have it to protect themselves and patients from the infection.

Uptake among nursing home staff and workers at long-term care facilities was lower at 37pc, up from 32.8pc last winter. Uptake of vaccines was highest at 61.7pc among doctors and lowest among support staff.

Mr Harris said the lack of isolation facilities in hospitals compounded outbreaks of the virus. So far this year, the worst flu outbreaks – where one person passed on the virus to another – have happened in hospitals and nursing homes.

To date, 22 people have died from flu, most of them over 65 years old. The highest rates of hospitalisation with flu have so far been among the under-fives and the over-65s.

Irish Independent

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