26 June 2020

Dear RCSI Members and Fellows,

Another week has passed since COVID-19 struck and it feels much like we are in the eye of the storm. While calm has briefly descended in Ireland, we remain concerned for the health and welfare of our many overseas Members and Fellows, especially in India and Pakistan where it seems the COVID-19 surge continues. I have learned from colleagues in both countries of the very difficult conditions in overcrowded hospitals and the widespread cancellation of all but the most urgent surgery. Please be assured of our support of your efforts to cope in extreme circumstances.

In Ireland, we now face the challenge of reopening scheduled care in the context of inadequate bed capacity, social distancing, avoidance of trolley waits and the completion of the short-term takeover of the private sector. We know the problems and challenges, but so do the HSE and the Department of Health. It is our responsibility to reflect on the positive and to work constructively with the relevant health authorities to find solutions, knowing resources will be limited. Care pathways and work patterns will necessarily change. Our duty is to ensure they change for the better in the long term, not short-term expediency.

To try and address the various concerns around how scheduled care will be delivered in the future, I have asked that our next webinar in the weekly surgical practice series focuses on Solutions for Scheduled Surgical Care. It will include contributions from Colm Henry (Chief Clinical Officer, Health Service Executive), Mr David Moore (Council Member and Co-Lead of the National Clinical Programme in Trauma and Orthopaedics) and Prof. Deborah McNamara (Council Member and Co-Lead of the National Clinical Programme for Surgery). Find more information and details on how to register here.

We learned last week how colleagues in New Zealand, the UK and USA have coped with the COVID-19 surge and how they are planning the recovery phase. The problems are similar, as will be the solutions. If you missed the live broadcast, you might consider viewing as a videocast below:

Watch a video here

Today, we have commenced our specialty training year. 80 specialty and Emergency Medicine trainees begin the next phase of their training with a full day of virtual inductions into their various specialty training programmes. I would like to congratulate them all on reaching this important phase of their career and wish them every success in the years ahead.

To mark the start of the training year, this week’s webinar focused on sustaining training during the COVID-19 pandemic with contributions from Prof. David Healy (Council Member and Incoming Chair of ISPTC), Mr Rustom Manecksha (Urology Training Programme Director), Ms Christina Buckley (President, Irish Surgical Training Group) and Prof. Oscar Traynor (Dean of Postgraduate Surgical Education and Training.

Watch the full webinar below:

Watch a video here

Overall, there was a sense of relief that our health services have not been overwhelmed with optimism that the challenges ahead actually present welcome opportunities to improve training with a focus on mentorship, training to competence and increased use of simulation and blended learning. In that context, publication of the first RCSI Trainers’ eZine, an online resource from the RCSI Faculty of Surgical Trainers was an important development in support of surgeons in their training and mentorship roles.

The academic and administrative staff in RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences have been working intensively to prepare for the safe reopening of the RCSI Campuses in Ireland, Bahrain and Malaysia. Exceptional activity, driven by eight working groups, has addressed issues from business continuity and course delivery to student health, arrival and integration on Campus. I have full confidence that come September, students and staff will be able to engage in a rewarding, digitally-enhanced learning environment.

Finally, congratulations also go to Council member Camilla Carroll who has been promoted to Clinical Associate Professor by Trinity College Dublin in recognition of her contribution to teaching and learning. Professor Carroll is also chair of the RSCI Outreach Committee for International Co-operation, whose remit will be greatly enhanced with the appointment of Professor Mark Shrime as O’Brien Chair of Global Surgery as I mentioned in last week’s letter.

Once again, I hope your week will be safe and productive and that, within the constraints allowed, you will have some time to share with family and friends.

Best wishes,

P. Ronan O’Connell