Elective surgeries curtailed at hospital until mid-January

ELECTIVE surgeries in Letterkenny University Hospital have been restricted until January in a bid to tackle mounting bed pressures.

More than 118,662 patients have been without a hospital bed so far in 2022, making it the worst year for hospital overcrowding on record.

General Manager of LUH Sean Murphy told the Donegal News that he is forecasting a very challenging and difficult year ahead.


He said the hospital is curtailing elective surgeries in an effort to stave off significant pressures on the hospital’s accident and emergency department.

“We are experiencing significant pressure in our accident and emergency department and in bed capacity and I don’t envisage that to change in the next few weeks. A lot will depend on Covid infection rates, RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) and influenza infections, all of which we have seen increased numbers of this month.

“This year has been extremely challenging and busy in Letterkenny hospital because of a return to services following Covid and with backed up services resuming we have seen a volume of patients through the hospital.”

He said hospital management have taken the decision to minimise elective surgeries.

“We have seen an episodic disruption to elective surgeries due to bed pressure. We have had, to date, some level of cancellation on inpatient and day patient surgery. We have made the case to minimise elective surgeries this week and for the first two weeks in January. Surgeries will be restricted to those who are clinically dependent. We understand every surgery is important to the patient who needs it, but we are focusing on clinically dependent surgeries as a matter of life or death for this week and the first two weeks of January. Every hospital in the Saolta group will restrict surgeries until January.

“There is no point continuing with surgeries if we know bed pressures are there and that leads to capacity issues. We are making sure we are prepared for the workload we are expecting, and if the situation turns out not to be as bad as predicted then we can lift the restriction.”
There were 34 Covid-positive patients being cared for in LUH yesterday (December 26).

“We need to reduce infection spread with the isolation of Covid patients in areas to take down risk. It is not just Covid, we are seeing a rise in RSV and influenza numbers and that all contributes to the stress on our system.”


Asked about staff morale, Mr Murphy said he believed that compared with other hospitals around the country morale among staff in LUH is “always quite good”. He said staff sickness levels have seen a marginal increase.

“Staff here have worked through Covid followed by the last two years and we are facing into an equally busy and challenging time in 2023. Staff sickness levels have risen ever so slightly. All of us who work at the hospital are as susceptible to infection as anyone else.”

Thirteen beds have come on stream in the hospital in the last six weeks. Mr Murphy said a drive to increase resources is ongoing.

“We have opened 13 beds in the hospital in the last six weeks, we now have 378 beds. We have 39 more beds than we did in 2019, pre-Covid. We will also be working closely with our colleagues in the National Ambulance Service regarding extra resources.”

Mr Murphy implored anyone who does not need urgent medical attention not to come to the hospital’s accident and emergency department over the coming days and weeks.

“I plead with anyone who needs medical treatment over Christmas to seek it. However if it is not an emergency, please in the first instance contact your GP or pharmacist. If you need to attend hospital, please bear in mind we prioritise patients in terms of acute need and those who do not have immediate need will be waiting to be seen.”

He also urged families and the next of kin of patients who can be discharged from hospital to help.

“We are working to free up bed space as soon as is possible and if a patient is fit to be discharged, we urge their family or next of kin to arrange transport.”

Paying huge thanks to all of the dedicated and hardworking staff of LUH, Mr Murphy added, “It has been a challenging year and our staff have responded so well. The commitment of people in this hospital is huge, it is stronger than any other hospital I have worked in. Staff here consistently put the needs of patients first and I wish to thank everyone sincerely.”

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