'I feel guilty that I cannot treat my patients who are in pain'
An orthopaedic surgeon who resorted to walking his dog last winter when his theatre list of patients was cancelled is enduring the same frustration this year.
Peter O'Rourke, a surgeon in Letterkenny Hospital, said some of his patients who are in pain have had their surgery postponed three or four times.
"I have done around 100 joint replacements in 2016 but a further 55 were cancelled. The last month has been disastrous."
Twelve years ago he had one-and-a-half days a week in theatre sessions, amounting to six every four weeks.
This has been whittled down to three every four weeks.
Dr O' Rourke said this was "not enough" at the best of times.
"When 'not enough' is cancelled it's even worse," he said. "A third of my list has been cancelled."
The dedicated medic said it was now about three weeks since he was able to work on a full theatre list.
Lack of beds is contributing to cancellations as well as a lack of staff.
Nurses are redeployed from in-patient or day surgery theatre to wards or the emergency department.
Dr O'Rourke has about 100 patients needing joint replacement and 120 day surgery cases.
Most have been waiting at least a year and are in pain.
Asked if he had any hopes of a change this winter, he said "no".
"I have a list on Friday and still no idea if it will go ahead. My next list is on January 6 or 7.
"As a doctor you feel guilty if you can't treat your patients, but you have no control."
Clinics cannot be organised at short notice and he is forced to "do nothing".