Dozens of surgeries at Ardkeen cancelled due to overcrowding
The wife of a 70-year-old man whose heart surgery at University Hospital Waterford (UHW) was one of dozens of procedures cancelled last week because of overcrowding has said families are living under enormous strain because of chaos in the health system.
Meanwhile, figures provided to The Munster Express by Independent TD Deputy John Halligan have shown that UHW – despite consistently having one of the most overcrowded Emergency Departments in the country – did not receive any extra beds in the so-called ‘winter handout’ allocation.
All ‘non urgent’ surgeries and procedures at UHW were cancelled from Tuesday to Friday of last week, as staff struggled to cope with exceptional demand at A&E. Flu-like illness rates have quadrupled, with the hospital experiencing a marked increase in patients presenting with respiratory/flu like symptoms
David Kiely, from Kilmacthomas, was scheduled to undergo surgery for an Aortic Aneurysm at UHW last Tuesday, 13 months after he was diagnosed. His wife Margaret accompanied him to the hospital at 7.30am for check-in.
“My husband was fasting from the night before. He was admitted to the day ward, had bloods done and was put in a bed to wait until he was called for his surgery. We sat there waiting all day long and, any time I asked what was happening, I was told by the nurses that there had been an emergency but he would be brought down shortly. They kept him fasting all day.”
Mrs Kiely added: “After 5.30pm I went out again to ask what was happening and was told that he wasn’t going to be operated on that day. We were eventually told to go home at 7.30pm. We were worn out and had no answers about why he hadn’t been operated on.”
The Kielys had a subsequent meeting with the consultant on Friday, at which they were told that David’s aneurysm was now measuring 6.5cm, which is considered medium to large in size.
“The surgeon told us the procedure needs to be done and if he had a bed available he would do it immediately”, Margaret continued. “But the earliest he can get us another appointment is March and even then there is no guarantee. I don’t blame the man, the beds are simply not there.”
Mrs Kiely said both the condition and the strain of waiting for a surgery date are taking their toll on her husband. “It is affecting his health but it’s more than that. It’s putting us both under huge pressure. My husband is nervous all the time that something could happen. He won’t go anywhere far from home, in case anything goes wrong. He’s not sleeping and the anxiety is getting to him. We would have been better off if we never got an appointment for last Tuesday. He was awake all night the night before, he put in an awful day waiting and then to be told to go home after all that – it was awful.”
According to figures collected by the Irish Nurses’ and Midwives’ Organisation (INMO), there were 22 people on trolleys in Waterford ‘s A&E last Tuesday, when Mr Kiely’s surgery was cancelled. By last Friday, UHW had 32 people waiting on trolleys for a bed – the second highest number of people across the country after St Vincent’s in Dublin.
John Halligan has claimed that UHW did not receive any extra beds out of the allocation of 440 additional ‘winter’ beds announced by Health Minister Leo Varadkar last November to help ease overcrowding pressures.
“St Luke’s in Kilkenny got an extra 12 beds, Wexford got at extra 10 beds, University Hospital Limerick got 22 beds while UH Cork got 30,” said Deputy Halligan.
“What did Waterford – consistently one of the most overcrowded A&Es in the country – get? Absolutely nothing. Yet again, we see the result of political interference in our health system and Waterford’s health service must bear the brunt.”
The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has said the cancellation of operations will not solve overcrowding, since the root of the problem lies in the lack of capacity in the system as a whole.
The organisation has called for 1,600 beds taken out of the acute hospital system to be reinstated, more investment in GP services, new beds for nursing homes and rehabilitative settings with suitable home care supports, and measures to retain doctors and bring home Irish trained doctors.