| 6.7°C Dublin

Potential delays Consultants warn of further disruption to surgeries as key staff out with Covid-19

Dr O’Neill revealed that patients have been put 'on alert' that scheduled procedures may need to be deferred


Stock image

Stock image

Stock image

A consultant from one of the country’s main maternity hospitals has warned that surgical procedures could be postponed due to the “surge” of Omicron cases which is affecting staffing levels.

Consultant Gynaecologist and Obstetrician at Tallaght and the Coombe Hospitals and Dr Aoife O’Neill said no elective procedures have been postponed at the Coombe this week but a significant number of staff are out of work with Covid-19 related concerns.

Dr O’Neill told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme that patients have been put “on alert” that scheduled procedures may need to be deferred depending on how the situation evolves in the coming weeks.

She confirmed that currently one in 10 healthcare workers at the Coombe are out due to Covid-19, while 212 health employees are also out of work at Tallaght Hospital.

“It would be remiss of us not to be anxious about what is happening. We very much understand how the stress levels are around coming into hospital for surgery. So, it is never without a heavy heart that a decision would have to be made in terms of cancellation of anyone’s surgery,” she said.

Dr O’Neill added that when staff levels for surgical teams are “scare”, prioritising emergency cases is necessary, and it is not the case that certain patients’ concerns are being dismissed.

“It doesn’t mean that we are dismissing anybody who has a planned surgery; that they’re not important because to that person their problem is urgent,” she explained.

Speaking on the same programme, Clinical Director of Cancer Services at the Limerick University Hospital Group Dr Denis O’Keeffe, said they have taken the decision, as they did last year, to cancel all elective procedures for the first two weeks in January to prioritise emergency care.

Dr O’Keeffe confirmed that 658 healthcare workers were out yesterday due to Covid-19 which is “14pc of the workforce” – across medical, nursing, and administrative teams.

He said “clinical judgements" are being made on a case-by-case basis to determine what patients are currently being prioritised.

“You have to focus on those patients who clearly need urgent investigations or treatment. It does mean that for those patients who are considered lower risk, as part of their elective procedures, that they’re not happening over the next two-weeks, but it’s very much based upon the clinical judgement as to what is urgent and what is non-urgent,” he explained.

Sunday World Newsletter

Sign up for the latest news and updates

This field is required This field is required

While Dr O’Keeffe did not provide a figure for how many procedures are currently being deferred, he said in recent years 680 outpatient appointments and 120-day case procedures would normally be carried-out each day.

“Those are clearly cancelled at the moment over two weeks,” he added.

In terms of the derogation which allows healthcare workers - who have been deemed a close contact of confirmed case but who are not symptomatic to return to work with daily testing - Dr O’Keeffe said given the high-risk nature of cancer treatment his teams are “very rarely” using the derogation.

“We are really not using that at the moment… What’s happening is that staff are being redeployed to key areas and it’s the flexibility and the commitment of the staff which has really allowed us to minimise derogation because derogation still means that there could be a risk for patients from staff who may still be transmitting the Covid virus,” he added.

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices