People across the county suffering from diabetes may have lost limbs as a result of a lack of resources at Wexford General Hospital (WGH). Fianna Fáil Deputy James Browne raised the issue of a spike in lower limb amputations at the hospital in 2016 and was shocked by the reply that he received.
In the reply from the HSE, Deputy Browne was informed that, prior to 2014, Podiatry Services were provided to patients from across the county at University Hospital Waterford, which was 'not adequately resourced to meet all the demands being placed on the service there' resulting in a higher level of amputations. In June 2014, a Podiatry service was established at Wexford General and a Podiatrist was recruited and this saw the amputation figures drop. However, when this Podiatrist left the position in 2016, 'the hospital experienced difficulties in recruiting a replacement'.
'As a result of this gap in service provision,' the HSE statement continued, 'it is not unexpected that the number of active leg ulcers increased. However, I am pleased to advise that a permanent replacement Podiatrist was successfully recruited and took up duty in November 2017'
The figures supplied to Deputy Browne showed that 119 people presented with Ulcer & Diabetes Mellitis in 2016, 13 of whom had amputations, giving an amputation rate of 10.9%. This is more than double the figure of 5% in 2015 when WGH had a Podiatrist, while in 2014 the figure stood at 9.3%.
Deputy Browne was somewhat taken aback by the answer received.
'It seems to me what they're saying here is that, due to a direct lack of resources at the hospital, people have developed ulcers and had to go through amputations. While I appreciate the candid response I received, this is horrific for the people who have lost limbs. Surely with the consequences being so serious, people could have been redirected elsewhere? It sounds like something from Dickensian times when there was no other options but to amputate. I'm not an expert on the medical side of things on this, but surely other alternatives could have been looked at? The consequences are extremely serious for the people involved.'
The HSE stated that amputation rates at WGH were 'comparable and, in many instances, better than some counties of a similar population', but that 'due to the challenges in service provision, WGH has experienced a higher prevalence of diabetic foot ulcers'.
A spokesperson for the HSE said that future prevention of ulceration is essential and that this would require education, raising awareness of care providers and regular foot examination by health care providers. This is something which has been identified as a key objective in the National Programme for Diabetes, which is said to include a screening programme for early detection.