A FARMER in urgent need of surgery on his broken leg has made a desperate plea to the HSE after being told he may have to wait another eight months.
Noel Burke's appeal to health authorities for a public bed in Tallaght Hospital is now being supported by a surgeon and family doctor.
Noel broke his thigh bone last April but has still not recovered. His injury means he cannot work and even may have to sell his farm.
He has been told it may be a further eight months before he undergoes the surgery he needs.
"I'm told I'm on an urgent waiting list for surgery, but I'm at the bottom of a priority list," said Noel (57), who has renewed his plea for a bed at Tallaght Hospital.
A surgeon told the Herald that Noel, and patients nationwide with similar problems, are being kept waiting for months because of a lack of designated beds for elective surgery patients.
Noel, who first spoke of his plight on the Liveline radio programme a month ago, told the Herald this week his unhealed leg has now forced him to try to sell his farm because he is prevented him from running it satisfactorily.
He and his wife Patricia had borrowed money to buy an additional 48 acres, but now he is confined to crutches and is unable to work to repay the debt.
"I find it very depressing that I have to sell the land because I've not guarantee when I'll be able to work again. I used to work from morning until dark, but now I can't do anything," he said.
Noel, who is a retired prison officer, was working at his farm at Ballytarsna, Abbeyleix, Co Laois, when he had the accident. The wheels of a large machine rolled over his legs, breaking one of his thighs.
He underwent an operation to put a pin in his leg at Tullamore Hospital the following day but his leg failed to heal and surgeons in Dublin told him he would need another operation.
Mr Burke, who has seven children, said orthopaedic surgeon David Moore informed him last month that the waiting period for a bed at Tallaght for this operation could be a further eight months.
After the operation he would need a further nine months wearing a special frame on his leg before it would be fully healed, said Mr Burke. "I've got full private health insurance cover for every hospital in Ireland, except Blackrock Clinic, with the Prison Officers Medical Aid Society yet it makes no difference. I'm told that other cases such as cancer rightly have priority. But surely I shouldn't be kept in this state for so long," he said.
Mr David Moore, one of 12 orthopaedic surgeons working at Tallaght Hospital, told the Herald that there are similar cases to Noel awaiting elective operations all over Ireland.
"The resources simply aren't being provided. The beds designated for elective surgery such as Noel's case are being filled with emergency cases that are being admitted through A&E departments. Not enough beds are being provided.
"I'm being paid to perform operations but I can't do them because the beds aren't available. Whole surgery teams are being left with nothing to do all afternoon because there's no beds for the people who need these elective operations.
"It's up to the CEO of the hospital and the HSE and the Minister for Health because there are not enough resources. I'm told moves are afoot but none of us are optimistic.
There are so many people in Noel's position and it's not fair on them or their families," said the surgeon.
Mr Burke's family doctor, David Booth, said: "Noel is in a lot of pain. I certainly wouldn't like to be in his position."