Doctors reject 6-month stay on surgery

A CONTROVERSIAL proposal to put a six-month stay on elective surgery at a children’s hospital is unlikely to go ahead after doctors rejected the cost-cutting plan.

The proposal was one of a number of money-saving measures tabled by management at Temple St Children’s University Hospital last week, according to consultant ophthalmologist Professor Michael O’Keefe.

The eye specialist said he understood the hospital had a projected deficit in excess of €5 million and had been instructed by the Health Service Executive (HSE) to reduce the overrun.

“The HSE comes along and tells the hospital to save money. The onus is then on the hospital to come up with ways of doing so. At a meeting last week between management and consultants, one of the proposals was to cancel elective surgery for six months. This was vehemently opposed by myself and my consultant colleagues,” Prof O’Keefe said.

He said while the proposal was a “definite runner” last week, it was now unlikely in light of the level of resistance from doctors and public criticism of the plan.

“We told them it was a non-runner. I’d be amazed if they went ahead with it now given the opposition to it. We asked them to come up with alternative proposals and they are coming back to us next week with those,” Prof O’Keefe said.

He estimated that halting elective surgery would leave up to 20 children a day without operations.

“Canceling my own list alone on a Wednesday would have meant about eight children went without eye surgery. Ear, nose and throat surgery would also have suffered. It would have effected an enormous number of children, you’re talking about approximately 20 kids a day.”

Prof O’Keefe said surgery would have to be rescheduled later in the year when the hospital closes sections of its operating suite to correct a heating problem.

“The plan in relation to the operating suite is to close it for three to six weeks in July/August to fix the heating and alternative arrangements will have to be put in place to do emergency and some elective surgery. But that is separate to the proposal suggested to us last week, despite the HSE’s attempts to muddy the waters,” he said.

The HSE was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Prof O’Keefe said he publicly criticised the management proposal as it was his duty as a doctor to advocate on behalf of his patients.

“Management are afraid to speak up, so somebody has to. Doctors have got to start speaking up for their patients, they’ve lost that ability I think.”


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