A SHORTAGE of nurses has led to rolling theatre closures at the South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital over the last five months.
The nursing deficit at the orthopaedic clinic has affected two surgery sessions at the hospital per week since May, for knee, hip and back surgeries.
The theatre closures may increase waiting times for the 5,575 patients waiting to access the orthopaedic clinic. Although 76% of patients are waiting less than 15 months to be seen for the first time, 495 patients are waiting longer than two years for an initial appointment at the clinic. Thirty-four patients are waiting longer than three years and five patients are waiting longer than four years for their first appointment.
Cork Senator Colm Burke raised the issue of the waiting lists at a meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health, where it emerged that 50 sessions have been hit since May. The South Infirmary later confirmed to the Evening Echo that it has a shortage of at least 14 nurses at the clinic.
“The patients are my main concern,” Mr Burke said. “Quite a number of people are waiting longer than two years. It’s fine if you are seen within a reasonable amount of time.”
The waiting list to access the clinic shows that Cork City needs a second centre of excellence for health, according to Senator Burke.
“The population of Cork has increased dramatically. It’s now a priority to build a second centre of excellence for Cork that will serve not only the county but the entire Munster region.”
Between September 2016 to September this year, 1,975 procedures were carried out at the hospital, including 433 hip operations, according to the response provided to Senator Burke.
A spokesperson for the South Infirmary said: “Urgent patients are prioritised. There is a particular focus on those patients waiting longest and specific arrangements are being put in place to ensure these patients are prioritised.
“It is anticipated a significant reversal of the rolling closures will take place in the New Year when staffing levels and skill mix are appropriate to providing safe patient care,” a spokesperson for SIVUH said.