THERE has been total silence from the Department of Health as to when an idle operating theatre at a Cork hospital will open.
The operating theatre at Cork University Maternity Hospital (CUMH) has lain idle since the hospital opened in 2007.
It was revealed recently that the number of women waiting for gynaecological operations at CUMH has more than doubled in the past 14 months — from 545 on May 30 last year to 1,137 on July 18 this year.
The waiting list has increased by almost 100 people between May 30 this year and June 18.
Cork TDs including Michael McGrath (FF) and Aindrias Moynihan (FF) have raised the issue in the Dáil to no avail.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin was the latest Cork TD to call for clarity on the idle theatre.
In a response to Mr Martin, the professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at CUMH, John Higgins, explained that the hospital is awaiting funding from Health Minister Simon Harris which was agreed more than two years ago.
“We have an idle theatre in the CUMH which, if funded to open, could more than double our throughput of patients each week and help reduce the increasing number of women waiting to be operated on,” he said.
“We have concerns regarding the growing risks to these women who must sit on this Inpatient Waiting List as they await their surgical procedure.
“We know time delays in operating on these women can have serious implications,” he added.
“There is a risk of cancers and other serious conditions developing or worsening as patients wait over a long period of time for surgery.”
Since 2017, CUMH has reduced its Outpatient waiting list by around 3,600 women. Professor Higgins explained that, as many of these women were referred for surgery, the inpatient waiting list is increasing “at an alarming rate.”
CUMH updated its business case for the idle theatre and resubmitted it to the Minister in May this year. With the support of the South/South West Hospital Group and the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF), CUMH rented theatre space in the Mater Private Hospital Cork for surgery on 87 “long waiters”.