Crisis 'forcing hospitals to cancel 16pc of operations'
About 16pc of planned surgeries - which in some cases can be "critical and life-saving" - is cancelled to free up beds in large centres during a hospital trolley surge, it was claimed yesterday.
However, ring-fencing beds in smaller local hospitals could alleviate the problem, said Ken Mealy, president of the Royal College of Surgeons.
He said: "Cancer surgery, for example, is elective, meaning it is scheduled in advance.
"Elective surgery is often critical, urgent and life-saving, and in many cases patients will have already waited a considerable period of time for their surgery.
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"Cancelling surgery is enormous, and we should not accept it as something that is a normal part of our health service each winter."
Mr Mealy was speaking as the number of patients on trolleys yesterday hit 579 - lower than last week's record 760.
He suggested ring-fencing elective surgical beds in smaller hospitals outside of the bigger centres "would go a long way in preventing this annual crisis".
A surgeon in Wexford Hospital, Mr Mealy pointed to Cork where Cork University Hospital and the Mercy Hospital had been instructed to stop elective surgery. However, he suggested the "South Infirmary-Victoria University Hospital has capacity and modest investment there would allow for increased elective surgery in Cork year round".
The reduction in patients on trolleys is strongly linked to the cancellation of surgeries.