An 81-year-old man’s surgery was cancelled at the last minute this week because there were no post-operation critical care beds available at a Cork hospital.
Clonmel native Redmond Burke (81) was due to undergo surgery at the Mercy University Hospital (MUH) last Tuesday to remove a precancerous growth on his pancreas, a lengthy and complex operation that can take up to eight hours.
However, his surgery was cancelled on short notice due to a lack of post-op beds in the intensive care unit (ICU) to monitor him following surgery.
Speaking to, Mr Burke’s daughter Carole Troy said:
“On Tuesday morning dad was in his room, gowned up ready to go for the operation and the team were waiting for him in the theatre.
“Next thing, someone walked in the door and told him his operation was cancelled because there was no post-op ICU bed for him, and that he could go home.
“So basically, he was left sitting there and told that’s it,” she added.
Prior to becoming ill in March, Mr Burke was a healthy octogenarian, swimming up to 50 lengths of his local swimming pool everyday.
However, a lack of hospital beds in Cork has seen him spend much of the past few months in South Tipperary General Hospital, awaiting transfer to Cork.
Mr Burke was referred to a gastroenterologist in MUH after doctors in Tipperary found a blockage in his bile duct.
He spent the next four weeks at South Tipperary General Hospital waiting for a bed at MUH.
“Over the course of those four weeks, he was told around four or five times that there was a bed in the Mercy for him and to pack his bags to head down,” said Ms Troy.
“He would get up, pack his bags, put on his clothes and be ready to walk out the door only to be told at literally the last minute that the Mercy had called and there was no bed for him.”
Around three weeks ago, Mr Burke was finally given a bed at the hospital where he was assessed by the gastroenterologist and underwent various tests.
It was at MUH that doctors discovered a precancerous growth on the head of Mr Burke’s pancreas that would require surgery.
In the days prior to his cancelled surgery, Mr Burke took a Covid-19 test and had to travel to Cork.
“My sister drove him down and dropped him off and we said ‘thank god, we’ve finally got him in the door for the op and everything will be okay’,” said Ms Troy.
“There had been so much waiting around and he was very nervous and frightened about the operation - often the waiting for these things is far worse.”
However, Mr Burke and his family were left disappointed by yet another bed shortage.
“What’s just as bad about the whole situation is that there was a highly skilled surgeon, an anaesthetist, theatre nurses all prepped, planned and ready for this long operation and it didn’t go ahead,” said Ms Troy.
“Other people could have had smaller operations done but that couldn’t happen on such short notice so not only was it a cancellation of my dad’s op but it was a complete waste of resources.”
Mr Burke has been told his surgery will go ahead instead this coming Tuesday but his family are not getting their hopes up.
“The way ICU beds are at the moment in Cork, the chances of it happening next Tuesday are slim and none yet he will still have to go through the same motions of having his Covid test done on Sunday and going down to Cork even though there’s an extremely high risk of the same thing happening again,” said Ms Troy.
The Mercy was contacted for comment.