Woman, 70, waits 5 hours to have arm amputated

A LEAKED email from a surgeon at Cork’s biggest hospital to his manager describes the hospital as being “in crisis” and miserably failing its existing patients.

The correspondence from consultant plastic surgeon Jason Kelly to Cork University Hospital’s (CUH) general manager and copied to 30 senior hospital staff, highlights how on just one shift, one critically ill woman was left without morphine on an A&E trolley after undergoing an emergency breast removal.

A second patient, a 70-year-old, had to wait five hours for an emergency amputation of her forearm after a “devastating injury”.

The email describes how the 42-year-old woman “was admitted with a full thickness burn to her left breast and arm pit — it resembled a battlezone injury. She spent the night outside the plaster room in A&E. She did not get any morphine and her dressings were inadequate. She was also critically ill and did not receive adequate nursing care”.

The surgeon requested to take a 70-year-old to emergency theatre at 4.30pm. “She had a devastating injury to her left upper limb requiring amputation... and the transfer of her hand skin to her amputation stump. This is an emergency procedure and in spite of this, it was 9.30pm before I got to operate on her”.

During the wait, her hand continued to swell making the procedure “much more difficult” and causing unnecessary loss of blood.

Similar incidents at A&E “have happened before”, the surgeon wrote, and “I have taken them through the usual channels without any obvious resolution”. The surgeon says problems at the hospital need to be “fixed immediately”.

The email, seen by the Irish Examiner, questions the ability of the hospital to take on a further 300-400 breast cancer patients a year when its operating theatres cannot cope with existing workload. Breast cancer services at the South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital are due to transfer to CUH at the end of the year.

In the letter, the surgeon writes how in the middle of this on-call shift, he attended a meeting on the planned transfer of all breast cancer services in Cork to CUH under the National Cancer Control Programme. At the end of the letter, he begs the question: “Are we going to add on the resources for 300-400 new breast cancers or are you going to make it clear to Professor Keane that our hospital is in a crisis and needs resources to deal with the 34 patients on trolleys today?” he asks. He also said for two years he has been requesting an operating theatre and an office, but these have not been provided.

The email was posted to the Irish Examiner from an anonymous source. Mr Kelly could not be reached for comment yesterday.

In a statement, Tony McNamara, general manager of the CUH Group, said the hospital had the capacity to manage future breast cancer services. He also said a meeting will be held with Mr Kelly to discuss the issues raised in the email.

“CUH affords all its patients and clients complete confidentiality and cannot discuss individual cases with anyone... however, the issues raised in Mr Kelly’s emails will be followed up internally in CUH.

“In relation to the transfer of breast cancers surgery to CUH, the hospital’s executive management board are satisfied that CUH has the physical capacity to manage the transfer of breast cancer services,” he said.


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