21 May 2021

Dear Fellows and Members,

It hardly seems possible that another disaster could befall the health services as we emerge from the recent surge of COVID-19 cases. The malicious ransomware attack on the HSE and Department of Health IT systems is contemptible. As happened during the pandemic, healthcare staff have reacted with the highest levels of professionalism and commitment. An up-date on the current situation is available from the HSE website.

Just as with the pandemic, the ransomware attack brings home the dangers of living in an open society and interconnected global economy. While we keep hoping for a new normal, and history reassures us that that there will be better times ahead, hedonism and greed are pervasive. A focus on core values will see us through and lessons learned will help to rebuild our heath service.

More than 350 final year students will graduate next week from RCSI University of Medicine and Medical Sciences. It has been a difficult year for all, but most especially for our new graduates who have studied under the most difficult of circumstances. I know you will join with me in welcoming them to the healthcare workforce and to extend our very best wishes to them and all medical graduates of Irish universities as they complete their studies and join the workforce. I congratulate the clinical teaching and administrative staff across all our medical schools for ensuring safe completion of final year studies.

While there has been much to concern us in recent months, there also have been welcome developments. The recent announcement that Cork University Hospital and the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital are to be the two national trauma centres is greatly welcomed and completes the consultative process of the National Trauma Implementation Plan. The real work of implementation now begins. The legitimate concerns of the neurosurgical community regarding co-location on the Mater site will need careful consideration. With good will and a focus on best patient outcomes, I have no doubt that we will see a National Trauma Network benchmarked with the best in the world. Our thanks and best wishes to Council Member Mr Keith Synnott, National Clinical Lead for Trauma Services, in his work in managing the next phase of implementation.

RCSI Council yesterday approved a proposal to develop a National Surgical Research Network to support inter-institutional collaborative surgical research across the island of Ireland. This initiative builds on the 2018 report on surgical research in Ireland and the outcome of consultation with the recently convened Irish Forum for Surgical Research. Funded by RCSI, a part-time National Lead and full-time Programme Manager will be recruited to establish the programme which, although housed in RCSI Surgical Affairs, will be a national resource in support of clinical research in surgery. My thanks to Council Member Professor Michael Kerin and members of the Council Research Committee for bring this proposal to fruition.

RCSI Council endorsed a plan to extend the Millin/Charter 2022 meeting to four days with a comprehensive programme on the theme of the Journey of a Surgeon, covering themes relevant to those in training, early and mid-career and, particularly important (to me!), those towards the end of their careers. It is hoped that many will be able to participate on-site but, building on the success of the virtual platform used at Charter 2021, provision will be made for a hybrid format that will allow a much larger audience and participation by Fellows and Members from around the world.

The Wednesday evening webinars continue to attract large audiences. The 'Trainee Perspective' webinar hosted by David Brinkman, Chair of the Irish Surgical Trainees Group, is well worth viewing if you missed it. Dr Cathal Barry TD, former second-in-command of the IDF Ranger Wing, gave an account of the training and leadership skills required in military service at the front line when failure is not an option. Captain Karl O'Neill, Chief Instructor with Aer Lingus, gave an equally interesting account of the rigors and recertification needs of an airline pilot.

On 12 May, a webinar on 'Developments in Thoracic Surgery', hosted by Council Member Professor David Healy, had presentations by Ms Aisling Kinsella on rehabilitating donor lungs for transplantation while Professor Karen Redmond spoke on novel treatments for tracheomalacia. On 19 May we had an excellent combined webinar with surgical colleagues in Pakistan and Ireland and with presentations from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Pakistan. The surgical links between Pakistan are deep rooted. We are most grateful for the enormous contribution to the Irish health service by colleagues from Pakistan without whom it would be impossible to deliver service in many of our hospitals.

Finally, it was with great sadness that we learnt of the sudden death of Enda McDermott, Consultant Surgeon at St Vincent’s University Hospital. Enda was known to the entire surgical fraternity in Ireland and to many overseas who had trained with him. Patient care, student teaching and surgical training were his core professional values. He will be sadly missed.

Kind regards,

P. Ronan O’Connell