Amid fears over the maintenance and development of a range of vital services at Waterford Regional Hospital, a proposal to cease vascular surgery there is due for discussion at a meeting in Dublin this Friday of the Irish Association of Vascular Surgeons.
The proposal is under the guise of a centralisation of services and with St Vincent’s and St James Hospitals reportedly keen on taking over the south east vascular territory, WRH, with only one surgeon, is seen as underdeveloped and an easy target. Needless to say, loss of the service locally would be bad news for patients and for the hospital.
That sole Consultant Vascular Surgeon, Mr. Simon Cross, who is also a General Surgeon and a Senior Lecturer in Surgery at the RCSI, is understood to have appealed to HSE Regional Hospitals Network Manager, Mr Richard Dooley, to advertise immediately for a second such surgeon. The HSE agreed last year to the post, for which funding is available.
There is believed to be serious concern generally among WRH’s Consultant Surgeons over the threat to what is seen as a core specialty in a major teaching hospital.
It is less than a month since this newspaper reported the hospital’s loss of top heart specialist Dr Briain MacNeill. An Intervention Cardiology Consultant, Dr MacNeill, having come here from Boston, is moving to Galway in January after becoming frustrated over the HSE’s failure to commit funding for a full-time cardiac catheterisation lab at Ardkeen.
On top of that, there have been concerns over cancer, urology and general surgical services at the hospital, where morale among some sections of staff is reported to be at crisis point. A factor in that regard, according to reliable accounts, is the loss of leading professionals and their replacement with temporary appointments, notably in orthopaedic surgery.
Acting on information received, Waterford Fine Gael Senator Maurice Cummins has prompted his party Spokesman on Health, Dr James Reilly, to table Dail questions on the situation at WRH.
Dr Reilly has asked the Health Minister to respond to queries regarding the number of temporary Consultants employed there, the fact that there is only one dermatologist serving the region’s population of nearly 450,000, the circumstances surrounding the loss of three orthopaedic surgeons and their replacement by temporary appointments, and the prospects for retention of proper cardiac services at the hospital.
Senator Cummins said it would be a disaster if Ardkeen were to lose vascular surgery.
But on a hopeful note, WRH Medical Board Chairman Dr Rob Landers said this week that at a meeting last Thursday with Mr Dooley he received very encouraging assurances regarding the development of a range of services at the hospital.
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Dr Landers, a Consultant Pathologist, said the Medical Board looked forward to working with HSE management in advancing those services and he now looked to the future with some measure of optimism.
According to an agreed statement afterwards, issued by the HSE, Thursday’s meeting produced a positive outcome, including confirmation that WRH would continue as a regional acute hospital for the region. “In addition”, said the statement, “it was confirmed that regional structures agreed earlier this year would shortly be put in place to enhance the development of this regional role”.
Meanwhile, the HSE has announced that two Consultant posts are to be filled at WRH. The Executive’s South Regional Forum Chairman, Cllr Hilary Quinlan, has welcomed confirmation that a permanent Consultant Neurologist is to be appointed in the New Year, the role having been filled in a temporary capacity since July of last year.
And the process of filling a post as Consultant Respiratory Physician, with special interest in Cystic Fibrosis in adults, is also underway.
The HSE has also confirmed that all non-emergency operations and procedures at WRH and the other acute hospitals in the region will stop from December 15, probably until the second week in January.
This is being done as a means of assisting towards achieving a break-even budgetary position for the year.
All essential services, including emergency admissions, will continue as normal.