Harney tells ‘under-utilised’ surgeon to talk to manager

HEALTH Minister Mary Harney said she could not accept that a surgeon could be left with nothing to do at a busy hospital.

She urged Peter O’Rourke, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Letterkenny General Hospital in Co Donegal, who claims he is being paid to do nothing, to talk to his manager and resolve the issue.

The Health Service Executive confirmed yesterday that very few joint replacement operations would be undertaken for a number of weeks with funding prioritised for critical areas like cancer, dialysis and responding to emergencies.

Mr O’Rourke, who earns around €225,000 a year, described the situation that effectively left him sitting in his office twiddling his thumbs as both frustrating and depressing.

“I am still allowed to do some day surgery every three weeks, but there’s no satisfaction working in the health service at the moment,” he said.

Speaking yesterday, Ms Harney pointed out that Mr O’Rourke and his colleagues could spend their time dealing with outpatient lists. “I would urge everybody in this time of huge economic challenges to look at solutions and not to bealways identifying problems,” she said.

Mr O’Rourke said extra nurses and administrative staff would be required if he was to take on additional outpatient clinics.

General manager of Letterkenny General, Sean Kelly, who was interviewed on Newstalk’s Lunchtime with Eamon Keane yesterday said that up to quite recently Mr O’Rourke had been a member of hospital’sexecutive board and was well aware of its financial situation.

A HSE spokesperson later confirmed that Mr Kelly was working with Mr O’Rourke and his colleagues in theorthopaedic department to ensure that the time that will be available due to deferral of the joint replacement procedures could be more effectively reallocated to the benefit of patients.

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