“Astronomical” amount of operations being cancelled weekly

An “astronomical” amount of healthcare operations are being cancelled every week as the HSE struggles to accommodate procedures, the Irish Patients’ Association has said.

Stephen McMahon, who is director of the IPA, warned that hundreds of procedures are being cancelled every week due to a rise in Covid hospitalisations, which will prolong the already brutal hospital waiting lists even further.

Ireland now has the highest number of patients in hospital with Covid-19 since March, despite over 91% of the population over-12 being vaccinated – the highest jab rate in the EU.

Consultants predict that at the current rate, by the end of the year, over a million patients in Ireland will be awaiting treatment.

By comparison, in mid-2019, around 550,000 were waiting to see a consultant for over a year and a half.

Factors contributing to the crunch including longstanding congestion in the health service, growing numbers of Covid-positive patients in ICU, and a growing number of fully-vaccinated healthcare workers out of work due to contracting the virus.

Currently over 1,800 healthcare workers are out of work with 371 nurses and midwives infected with Covid this month, according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation.

Additionally, it is probable that the HSE cyber attack has contributed to treatment delays, with the health service still reeling from the devastating ransomware attack earlier this year.

Dr. Denis McCauley, who is chairman of the GP committee for the Irish Medical Organisation, said: “We know everything has been delayed. There are huge problems, even with things like cancer care and screening services.”

He added: “There will be consequences for patients from this.”

Cardiology specialist Dr. John Clarke, who works at Blackrock clinic, said that both private and public patients have experienced delays in medical care since the start of the 2020, and asked why the country’s ICU capacity had not been significantly increased in the past 20 odd months since the start of the first lockdown.

Notably, in January of 2021, HSE chief Paul Reid said that it was “beyond belief and comprehension” that certain hospitals had not expanded their ICU surge capacity for the possibility of a spike in Covid cases, urging an increase in the number of beds nationally.

However, just today Reid said that “it’s not really true” that if ICU bed capacity is increased that the Covid-19 situation will be better.

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