CUH to shut operating theatres over Christmas

CUH to shut operating theatres over Christmas
Cork University Hospital is to close its operating theatres over Christmas.

OPERATING theatres are to close at Cork University Hospital for two weeks over Christmas, the Evening Echo can reveal.

It is the second successive year that the hospital has sought to implement the measure despite growing pressures on the country’s health service.

An email was sent to CUH staff earlier this week informing them of the planned two-week closure. In 2017, a three-week closure was mooted but was met with defiance from staff as around 1,500 patients awaited surgery.

It comes just days after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar called on healthcare workers to avoid taking holidays during the winter period.

CUH sources told the Evening Echo the closure is mainly down to the fact many patients do not wish to undergo surgery at Christmas as they worry how it might affect holiday plans.

A hospital spokesperson said: “CUH has, as in previous years, put in place measures to address the requirement for continued patient care over the Christmas period. This includes the rostering of relevant staff and supports to manage patient flow.”

The closure is part of the winter-ready strategy being implemented at the hospital.

The Mercy University Hospital. Plans are in place for 'surge' bed capacity ahead of winter. Pic; Larry Cummins
The Mercy University Hospital. Plans are in place for 'surge' bed capacity ahead of winter. Pic; Larry Cummins

Both CUH and the Mercy University Hospital (MUH) have plans for additional ‘surge’ bed capacity ahead of the winter period.

The development comes amid warnings from medical unions that a lack of a winter plan from the HSE would lead to chaos in the health sector in the coming months.

More than 1,500 people attended the Emergency Department of the Mercy Hospital between December 21, 2017, and January 7, 2018. There were 50 attendances on Christmas Day, the lowest over the period, with a high of 142 attendances on Friday, December 29.

Meanwhile, there were also 458 admissions and 359 emergency admissions during the same period.

Both CUH and the Mercy have said full bed capacity will be available at the hospitals over the winter period.

The scheduled closures of operating theatres will take place, from December 22 until January 1.

The Taoiseach and Minister for Health Simon Harris have come under fire from medical unions and staff recently, after suggesting healthcare staff avoid taking holiday leave during the winter period.

However, a statement from the Mercy revealed that medical, nursing and allied health rosters, including radiology and laboratory, are being processed and are fully populated for the Christmas period.

The hospital also said the senior management roster for Christmas period is in place and fully populated.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the South-South West Hospital Group said: “The rostering of staff is a matter for hospital managers and it is not something that the South-South West Hospital Group formally oversees.” However, they added "there is no additional leave given to medical staff other than what is planned and agreed on a yearly basis to ensure that staff can have their statutory entitlements.”

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