Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn

HSE Winter Plan highlights vulnerability of scheduled surgery – RCSI President

06 December 2018

Thousands of Irish people will have their scheduled surgeries and diagnostics cancelled over the four-week duration of the HSE’s Winter Plan, highlighting the vulnerability of scheduled health care each winter, according to RCSI President Mr Kenneth Mealy.

Mr Mealy was responding to the Winter Plan which centres on reducing outpatient appointments, planned in-patient and day case procedures in order to free up hospital capacity to deal with the increased demand that arises at this time each year.

“I understand why, in the existing system, it is necessary for the HSE to prioritise emergency care over scheduled care. It is, however, a sticking plaster of a solution that will discommode thousands of patients and put pressure on waiting lists in the new year”.

“This plan will have the greatest impact on those who cannot avail of private healthcare and, therefore, already wait the longest for their care. The procedures that will be delayed are life-altering procedures for those with chronic non-urgent conditions like joint replacement where patients have already endured up to two years with severe pain, limited mobility and impaired quality of life”, said Mr Mealy.

Mr Mealy said a long-term solution to this recurring problem is urgently required and that there is an inescapable logic to the separation of acute and scheduled care in our hospital system.

“RCSI has constructively engaged with the HSE to develop solutions to these perennial crises, and I understand how challenging it is for the HSE to think about the long-term when it’s constantly fighting fires. The solutions we are advocating for, however, require a shift away from crisis plans to long-term budgeting and planning”.

“Yet, the 2019 Service Plan still has not been published and the Theatre Quality Improvement Programme, led by RCSI and piloted at University Hospital Kerry, which was to be rolled out across the country by the HSE looks unlikely to happen. That programme has the potential to significantly improve efficiencies and free-up bed capacity and is certainly a more sustainable solution than cancelling surgeries or putting more trollies on corridors”.

“It really is hard to conclude that the system can forward plan appropriately”, said Mr Mealy.