Cancellation of 9,000 operations ‘a feature of hospital systems’

THE cancellation of operations — 9,000 in the first six months of the year — is a feature of hospital systems according to the Health Service Executive (HSE).

Responding to criticism that patients whose procedures are postponed suffer prolonged and unnecessary pain, the HSE said while every cancellation was “an inconvenience”, they had to prioritise patients in urgent need.

“Given the need for prioritisation it is occasionally necessary to postpone elective procedures. It is important to point out that all cancelled procedures are rescheduled,” the HSE said, adding: “In Ireland the level of cancellations is broadly in line with other hospital systems internationally.”

The statement followed the release of figures by Fine Gael health spokesperson Dr James Reilly which showed a 27% increase in the number of cancellations (8,935) for the first half of 2009 compared to the same period last year.

“The 7,037 cancelled operations by June 2008 more than doubled to 16,316 by year end which suggests 20,000 operations may be cancelled by the end of this year,” Dr Reilly said.

“It is depressing that figures I sought from the HSE confirm that the gridlock in our hospitals continues to see patients’ procedures cancelled. Patients whose procedures are postponed, having suffered prolonged and unnecessary pain, may then develop into an emergency to be dealt with at A&E.”

However, the HSE disputed Dr Reilly’s claim of a 27% increase in cancellations. Their statement said: “The increase in the number of cancellations cited by Dr Reilly is linked to the increase in activity in hospitals rather than a significant increase in the number of cancellations alone.

“Between January and June 2009, the acute hospitals admitted over 329,757 day case patients and over 298,329 in-patients — a total of over 628,000 admissions. In this context, the total of 8,935 cancellations that occurred so far this year is 1.4% of overall activity.”

The health authority also said Dr Reilly’s figures did not look at the reasons behind cancellations and that not all cancellations are as a result of hospital capacity or availability.

“In some cases, cancellations occur for clinical reasons such as a patient may not be deemed fit for surgery on a given day by their clinician,” the HSE said.


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