THE orthopaedic consultant at Letterkenny University Hospital has blamed a lack of resources put in by hospital management for the fact that more than 2,700 patients were waiting at the end of last month for orthopaedic treatment, both inpatient and outpatient.
Mr Peter O’Rourke told the Donegal News this week that while resources are going into other medical disciplines those suffering in pain from arthritis don’t shout very loudly.
Those on the orthopaedic waiting list are among the 16,563 patients awaiting treatment at the hospital according to figures published by the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) this week. The nation-wide waiting list is now almost 700,000 – the highest ever.
Mr O’Rourke blames a lack of ring-fenced beds for his patients which has seen him complete two thirds of the number of surgeries to date that he carried out last year.
“Two-third of today’s list was cancelled because of a lack of beds. You would expect that to be the case in January or February but not in August. It is now almost a rarity to complete a full list. It is getting worse and worse and worse.
“To add insult to injury surgeons in general and in LUH brought in an enhanced recovery programme designed to get patients home quicker and reduce their length of stay. Everyone’s stay is reduced by one night and we are one of the best in the country at this.
“It is as if no one gives a damn about orthopaedics,” he said.
A shortage of theatre staff has been limiting the numbers of surgeries being carried out at LUH for the past eight months.
Not surprisingly Mr O’Rourke is extremely frustrated as he tries to do his best for his patients. He is due to retire in three years and the unacceptable waiting lists and cancellations has left him disillusioned for some years now.
“Twenty years ago if you saw someone they would have been operated on in six weeks, now its nearer 18 months. The government health plan is high on aspiration but the practicalities need to happen on the ground,” he said.
His son recently met with some medical student friends in Dublin he went to college with. Out of 600 interns finished in July, 200 of them were leaving for Australia.
Each month from March to the end of July the waiting lists at LUH have fluctuated from a ‘low’ of 16,010 at the end of March to 16,693 at the end of June.
This figure is made up of 2,578 inpatient/day cases and 13,985 out patient cases.
Small consolation to all those people waiting to be treated. On the outpatient waiting list for LUH it shows that 1,395 people have been waiting more than 18 months for appointments. On the inpatients list there are 56 patients waiting more than 18 months.
Mr O’Rourke, who earns around €185,000 a year, has been working in Letterkenny for the past twenty-one years.