Letterkenny surgeon hits out at Minister’s comments

Consultant orthopaedic surgeon Mr. Peter O'Rourke in his office at Letterkenny University Hospital. Picture: Declan Doherty

Consultant orthopaedic surgeon Mr. Peter O’Rourke in his office at Letterkenny University Hospital. Picture: Declan Doherty

A LEADING hospital surgeon has reacted angrily to the Health Minister’s that recent suggestion that providing more beds would reduce pressure on doctors to discharge patients.
Mr Peter O’Rourke, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon, Letterkenny University Hospital, said that Minister Varadkar’s comments ‘beggars belief’.
His decision to speak out is borne out of frustration.
“Four out of five patients on my operating list today have been cancelled and I question whether it was really necessary,” he said.
“These patients will now have to wait another week, at least, for replacement surgery not to mention to knock on effect on the overall waiting list which now stands at in excess of one hundred,” he added.
Mr O’Rourke suggested that, like the majority of doctors and nurses that work in our hospitals, excluding those who work in Emergency Departments, he was sick to death of hearing about the crisis in our ED’s.
“This is the myth that just keeps on giving,” he said.
The Consultant Surgeon said there is no crisis in ED’s, but there is a shortage of beds.
“Trying to resolves the effects but not dealing with the cause of a problem is doomed to failure. To date the Department of Health’s solution has been to redevelop ED’s, and increase the number of doctors and nurses who work in these units. This has failed abysmally to improve the situation,” Mr O’Rourke said
“Only by providing somewhere for patients to be admitted from an ED can this problem be resolved, this means more beds and the 400 plus people on trolleys every day confirms this. Putting more resources into ED rather then into a solution merely perpetuates the problem and the myth.
“The Minister’s recent suggestion that providing more beds would reduce pressure on doctors to discharge patients beggars belief,” he said.
Surgeons now admit on day of surgery and discharge as soon as possible. Mr O’Rourke said that day case surgery has also become a norm. Joint replacement surgery now requires only a 2-4 day hospital stay, but that requires the patient to be admitted in the first place.
“Recent industrial action by ED staff has resulted in the establishment of escalation protocols dictated by ED staff which effectively castrates local bed management. This agreement to appease ED staff would even make Neville Chamberlain blush.
“The consequences of the current policy is that planned surgery cancellations will increase even further, waiting lists will get bigger.
Ironically hospitals will be criticised for the length of their waiting lists and the HSE will force surgical treatment to be outsourced to private hospitals. This means that funding that could be used to increase bed numbers will be dissipated into the private sector in a self perpetuating prophecy.
“In order to expand our bed numbers nurses need to be valued and paid more as they are the backbone of our hospitals but not just those who work in our ED’s.
So rather then listening to the ED staff perhaps the solution should be sought from those who do not work in ED’s otherwise we will end up with hospitals attached to ED’s, rather the ED’s attached to hospitals.”

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