LETTERKENNY University Hospital continues to slowly work its way through the backlog of medical procedures postponed as a result of the coronavirus.
Associate Perioperative Clinical Director, Mr Peter O’Rourke, confirmed yesterday that day surgery lists will return to somewhere near full capacity from Monday next.
Out-patient appointments will also resume from June 8 at Scally Place as as more medical services are gradually being fed back into the system.
All planned surgery has been shut down for the past three months at LUH because of Covid-19 with colonoscopies and all screening programmes also deferred due to staff redeployment and concerns over patient and staff safety.
“We started day surgery two weeks ago, May 15, but next week we will be back to normal with full activity while planned or elective surgery is due to recommence on June 22,” Mr O’Rourke explained.
As part of the normal elective surgery process, patients must be cleared for surgery through pre-admission testing. Now, they also need to test negative for Covid-19 which is an additional step in the process.
“Safely remains very much to the forefront as we put things in place to resume elective surgery. Any patient for planned surgery will have to be isolated from all other patients in the hospital which causes logistical difficulties. You can’t be in a ward with patients who are having emergency operations so we’ll be using one theatre, three days a week initially, and gradually we hope to expand very slowly for there,” he explained.
At full capacity, Letterkenny University Hospital would have two theatres open five days a week.
“It now takes a lot longer to do a theatre case due to new Government guidances while, post operation, some theatre space has to be given over to patients coming out of the anaesthetic. They have to kept in isolation,” he said.
Emergency theatre lists – broken bones, appendix and bowel operations and caesarian sections – continued as normal during coronavirus.
“It will take a significant amount of time before we get anywhere near the capacity that the hospital had before Covid,” he warned.
“In order to protect patients undergoing planned elective surgery we have to take additional precautions that were never heard of before Covid to protect the patients. If someone undergoing surgery catches Covid the outcome is poor,” he said.
Out-patient clinics will also resume from Monday next, again with smaller numbers.
“There are processes in place to ensure patient and staff safety and to make sure nobody is likely to be at risk of contracting Covid while in the out-patients clinic,” he said.
Some clinics managed to continue online or over the telephone but most surgical clinics require face to face contact to examine the patient.
“We appear to be on top of things at the moment with regard to Covid. We’re winning the battle but the problem is that any patient who has the slightest possibility of Covid has to be isolated in a single room – maybe for up to seven days to be certain that they don’t have Covid. That’s a challenge.
“In Donegal there is a high proportion of elderly people and many of them would have respiratory difficulties. We have to presume that any patient admitted has Covid until confirmed otherwise,” Mr O’Rourke said.