Saturday 21 April 2018

Surgeon: Trolley crisis is forcing me to cancel operations

Orthopaedic surgeon Peter O’Rourke in his office at Letterkenny General Hospital. Photo: Declan Doherty
Orthopaedic surgeon Peter O’Rourke in his office at Letterkenny General Hospital. Photo: Declan Doherty
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

A surgeon has spoken of his frustration after being forced to tell patients suffering pain that their hip and knee operations have been cancelled due to the trolley crisis.

Peter O'Rourke is an orthopaedic surgeon at Letterkenny Hospital, where 17 patients were on trolleys yesterday morning.

He said even his reduced theatre list of just five patients for January had to be postponed because there were no available beds this week.

Hundreds of patients in hospitals across the country are being told the devastating news that surgery they waited months for has had to be postponed as overcrowding left wards stretched to the limit.

Mr O'Rourke last winter said there were days he was forced to walk his dog instead of operating.

Now he is expressing his frustration again, as statistics show hospital overcrowding escalating, with at least 543 patients on trolleys in need of a bed.

The real figure was higher as it did not include St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin, which suffers some of the worst gridlock, and had 22 patients on trolleys at 8am, according to the HSE.

Mr O'Rourke, who normally operates on 15 patients a month, said this has been reduced by two-thirds for January and February.


"No patient who needs a hip or knee replacement is not waiting in pain. There is no more efficiency we can achieve - 20 years ago a patient was in hospital for 10 days and now it is down to three," he said.

The Mater Hospital in Dublin also had to cancel surgery and appeal to the public to attend their GP where possible yesterday afternoon after 17 patients piled up on trolleys.

There was also no respite for patients in Cork University Hospital, which has been gripped by overcrowding since the beginning of the year.

It had to cope with 46 patients on trolleys yesterday, most of whom were in its emergency department.

Read more: Ireland's seemingly never-ending trolley crisis: What the Ministers have said

Mullingar Hospital and University Hospital Limerick were also under severe pressure, as were Beaumont and Tallaght Hospitals in Dublin.

The HSE was unable to give a timescale for the installation of prefab modular units on some hospital grounds - including the campus of South Tipperary Hospital in Clonmel.

The temporary accommodation is aimed at alleviating overcrowding.

But a HSE spokeswoman said the tender process for the buildings was still being concluded.

Clonmel specialist Professor Paud O'Regan said the "hotel" may not be ready until next year and was caught up in red tape while the hospital endured chaotic conditions this winter.

Irish Independent

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