A CONSULTANT has labelled the overcrowding and cancellation of elective surgeries at hospitals in Cork as catastrophic and says it’s an indication of a meltdown.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation and the HSE agreed to cancel all elective surgeries at Cork University Hospital (CUH) and Mercy University Hospital from Sunday last.
Yesterday saw the worst overcrowding in hospital departments since records began, with 760 patients on trolleys.
"If this isn't what meltdown looks like, what does meltdown look like?" Dr Anthony O'Connor told The Echo.
“January every year it happens, and it gets a little bit worse every year. I just worry that we’re almost at the point now where we accept this - but actually, this is the sign of breakdown.
"One of the core roles of any hospital is to do elective surgery. If we can’t do that, that’s a catastrophic failure.
"It’s frightening that it’s allowed to get this bad and it doesn’t seem to be changing,” added Dr O’Connor, a consultant gastroenterologist.
Today saw the same number recorded on trolleys, with a total of 80 patients without a bed in hospitals in Cork.
CUH saw 47 on trolleys, while there were 27 at the Mercy, and six in Bantry General.
Cork-born Dr O’Connor says 760 isn’t indicative of the true number of people who need care.
“The hidden people are the people who aren't on trolleys because they were told not to come in because their surgery was cancelled.
"In actual fact, the number of people being denied care on account of overcrowding is greater again,” he said.
“Elective surgery is not a nose job, you’re talking about cancer surgeries, people with chronic pain having hip replacements, blood vessels that could be about to rupture, aortic aneurysms, big surgeries.
"To have that cancelled for the area the size of Cork and Kerry is not okay,” Dr O’Connor added.
“We need to remind ourselves that this is really bad. This does not happen in most places in the world, and it shouldn’t happen in a rich country at all,” Dr O’Connor said.
Going forward he believes it’s very difficult to come up with one answer as to what would ease the pressure on emergency departments and hospitals as a whole.
“It’s a matter of matching the supply to the demand. We’re totally mismatched at the moment in terms of staff and facilities.
"Beds are the most simple facility of all in a hospital and we don’t have enough of those, and certainly there are efficiencies that we could bring in, but when you’re 760 beds down there’s no one thing,” Dr O’Connor said.
He said that the issue of trolleys being taken up in emergency departments by people waiting for scans needs to be looked at.
The families of two patients who spoke to The Echo at CUH on Monday were waiting for their loved ones to be sent for MRI scans.
“I worked in the NHS for a couple of years and that was the biggest difference that I noticed there.
"If you saw somebody in an emergency department that didn't need to be there but did need to be investigated quickly, you could get them seen within two weeks as an outpatient.
"Whereas here, if you’ve got somebody who needs a scan, you can’t guarantee that they’ll have it for six months,” Dr O’Connor said.