Modest investment in scheduled elective surgery would protect patients during predictable winter surge – RCSI President

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Public frustration and annoyance with the current hospital overcrowding crisis and its impact on planned surgeries across the country is understandable and justifiable according to RCSI President Mr Kenneth Mealy who today set out a practical solution to this predictable annual crisis.

“We share the frustration of the public, healthcare staff and indeed that of the HSE CEO Paul Reid. The current situation which sees patients across the country on trolleys, demoralised staff working to provide high quality care under immense pressure, and elective surgical patients having their surgeries cancelled, must be addressed”.

Mr Mealy said that the current approach of providing €100 million each year to the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) to reduce waiting lists is wasteful and does nothing to protect elective surgery which decreases by 15% when the winter surge in demand occurs each year.

He said that it is important to be clear that elective surgery is not optional surgery. “Cancer surgery, for example, is elective, meaning it is scheduled in advance. Elective surgery is often critical, urgent and life-saving, and, in many cases, patients will have already waited a considerable period of time for their surgery. The health, emotional and practical impact of cancelling surgery on patients and their families is enormous and we should not accept it as something that is a normal part of our health service each winter”.

“We have consistently said that if we put the patient at the centre of our planning, there is an inescapable logic to the separation of acute and elective care. Ring-fencing elective surgical beds in our Model 2 and Model 3 hospitals would go a long way in preventing this annual crisis. In Cork, for example, Cork University Hospital and Mercy Hospital have both been instructed to stop elective surgery. South Infirmary-Victoria University Hospital has capacity and modest investment there would allow for increased elective surgery for patients in Cork year round”.

“Indeed, some form of public-private partnership which would see the public system buy theatre time and beds for scheduled elective surgeries from the private hospitals would provide immediate relief in our public hospitals and reduce waiting times for patients,” suggested Mr Mealy.

Mr Mealy said that RCSI “remains committed to finding sustainable solutions to our continuing healthcare challenges in partnership with the healthcare agencies”.