By Harry Walsh
FOUR cancer patients who had their surgery at Letterkenny General Hospital cancelled at short notice on Tuesday were expected to have their operations this morning.
Three patients with a breast cancer diagnosis and one other general surgical patient had to have their surgery deferred due to lack of beds to accommodate them.
Mrs Betty Holmes, Donegal Action for Cancer Care, was contacted by one of the families on Tuesday morning while the family also made contact with the Donegal News.
“We were of the opinion that cancer patients took priority at all hospitals. This news is upsetting and simply not acceptable,” Ms Holmes said.
“They’re cutting budgets all the time and this situation is going to get worse before too much longer. The National Cancer Registry are telling us that they except cancer figures to double between 2015 and 2040 at a time when we’ve no cancer services in place, It’s a very worrying time,” she added.
Mr Sean Murphy, General Manager, confirmed that the patients “regrettably” had to have their surgery cancelled due to lack of beds to accommodate them.
“The hospital experienced a high level of emergency medical admissions over the bank holiday weekend, and we are continuing to work with a reduced bed compliment as a result of the flood with the CCU and Haematology/Oncology wards yet to be reinstated.
“We are also currently recruiting additional staff to open the ward that accommodated the interim Emergency Department as additional inpatient bed capacity pending the reinstatement of CCU & Haematology/Oncology ward but this will take some months to deliver,” Mr Murphy said.
“On Tuesday morning, there were 15 patients waiting for an in-patient bed in ED and the new Medical Assessment Unit and there were four patients in ward treatment rooms and a further four patients on trolleys on the corridors of our wards.
There were also three beds closed for infection control reasons due to the presence of suspected Norovirus on one of the wards.
“Despite the unavoidable cancellation of these admissions and very proactive management of inpatients and discharges, the situation at the hospital remained critical this morning (Wednesday) with 11 patients in the Emergency Department; 7 patients on trolleys in AMAU; 4 patients in trolleys in treatment rooms on the wards; and 6 beds closed for infection control reasons due to suspected norovirus.
“Breast cancer surgery always gets top priority and cancellations are rare but it could not be safely accommodated yesterday due to the levels of activity. The four surgical patients who were deferred yesterday are rescheduled for tomorrow (Thursday 8th May),” he said.
In reply, Mrs Holmes suggested that it was no longer creditable blaming the reduced bed compliment on last July’s flood.
“We appreciate the flood had a major impact but continuing to use that excuse only helps in getting those in power off the hook. There were capacity problems in Letterkenny long before the flood. Add to that ongoing cuts in the budget, recruitment embargoes and the promise of further cuts down the road where is it all going to end?”
“The Government is attacking the most vulnerable members of our society. The staff in Letterkenny General Hospital are doing their best in very difficult circumstances. The place is being over run,” she sighed.
FOUR years after catastrophic floods caused more than €25 million damage, work remains ongoing to reinstate Letterkenny University Hospital.
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