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Investigation Probe underway after cancellation of transplant operation due to shortage of ICU beds

It is understood half the Mater’s ICU beds were occupied by Covid-19 patients on that day


Dr Colm Henry

Dr Colm Henry

Dr Colm Henry

The chief clinical officer of the HSE has said an investigation is now underway at the Mater Hospital, after an organ transplant operation was cancelled due to a shortage of ICU beds, in the Covid-19 surge.

The Sunday Independent highlighted the case which took place on November 12.

Organs became available and were delivered to the Mater in Dublin. The patient was put on standby and the operation was due to take place later that day.

However, it transpired ICU beds were full and staff were unable to access beds in other hospitals in the city. The operation was cancelled, as a result.

Dr Colm Henry told This Week on RTÉ Radio 1: “The Mater Hospital [is] currently in the middle of an investigation in this case.

“We’ll be looking at this also nationally because of the importance of this transplant programme to our entire healthcare system.

“Unfortunately, this case is symptomatic of the severe pressure that we’re seeing right across the healthcare system, not confined to intensive care units - but particularly intensive care units - and underlines the core message we have for everybody out there.

“Prevention of Covid-19 cases getting sick enough to go into hospital or ICU is much easier than treating.”

It is understood half the Mater’s ICU beds were occupied by Covid-19 patients on that day.

Meanwhile, an estimated 60pc of ICU beds in all hospitals are being used for patients seriously ill with the virus.

The Mater told the Sunday Independent the cancellation of the organ transplant procedure was “unprecedented” and the hospital extended its “deep regret” to the transplant patient.

Dr Henry said: “Given the current, really extraordinary situation where we see such high proportions of people in ICU - 125 patients out of our almost 300 stock in intensive care for one illness alone – our healthcare system, particularly intensive care and intensive care providers outside of intensive care settings, is so stretched now that we have to use every single available capacity, every single available bed, to provide care for those who immediately need care, and for which that care cannot be suspended.

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“That is, people with Covid-19, unscheduled care, trauma, those with urgent and emergency needs that need care right now. We simply cannot have empty beds while those patients need care.”

Dr Henry added: “I won’t go into details in this individual case except to say that the Mater Hospital is investigating this case and clearly the priority is this patient, and to keep this patient safe and to ensure that this patient gets the treatment he or she needs.”

In a statement, the Mater said: “There were severe capacity constraints in the Mater’s intensive care unit on that date. Fifty per cent of those being cared for in the Mater’s ICU at that time were severely ill Covid positive patients.

“Every effort was made both within the hospital and in the wider hospital system in Dublin to secure a bed. The decision was not taken lightly and the Mater deeply regrets the impact this had on the transplant patient, their family and the donor’s family.”

The HSE’s review is to establish any national learnings that could arise from this incident.

Hospitals have been informed to expect a wave of Covid-19 that will peak in the coming weeks but which could be sustained until the end of January.

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