A recent article by Elish O’Regan for the Independent.ie out of Dublin outlines how surgical wait times are a challenge for many healthcare systems around the world, including Ireland. The COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on the number of surgeries cancelled, leaving 20,000 seriously ill surgery patients in urgent need, as reported by the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland. Novari Health’s surgical wait list management and eBooking technologies can help efficiently manage surgical backlogs for hospitals and health regions around the world.
This article was originally published in the Independent.ie by Eilish O’Regan on October 7, 2021:
The Covid-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on the number of surgeries carried out on seriously ill patients, causing operations to plummet and leaving 20,000 people in urgent need, it has been revealed.
Covid-hit hospitals saw a 17pc plunge in emergency surgeries and 30pc fewer waiting list operations, the report by the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland (RCSI) showed.
The report lays bare the hidden impact of the pandemic as hospitals struggled to care for Covid-19 patients and impose infection control measures.
Thousands more patients have now been left waiting longer for surgery, with queues for operations – which were already at worrying levels – lengthening further.
Surgeon Kenneth Mealy warned: “The pandemic has exacerbated what were already unstainable waiting lists.
“The HSE must act to immediately protect capacity for scheduled surgery.”
The report highlighted how there had been a 153pc spike from April 2020 to the same month this year in the number of surgical patients waiting more than a year for procedures.
Patients needing general surgery were worst affected, making up 31,517 of those on waiting lists.
Public patients needing orthopaedic surgery, such as hip and knee surgery, account for 10,393 in the queue with another 9,797 needing urology care.
By April last, 27.1pc of the 76,949 people on waiting lists for inpatient care, day procedures or endoscopies were deemed “urgent”.
Another major backlog has grown for urgent ear, nose and throat appointments, with more than 100,000 patients now waiting for their first specialist consultation.
The RCSI’s National Clinical Programme in Surgery (NCPS) has drawn up guidelines for surgical teams, including how to maintain room to operate during an outbreak.
NCPS co-lead Professor Deborah McNamara said: “It is important to remember how little we knew about Covid-19 and its duration in early 2020.
“Italian hospitals were overrun, with inadequate ventilators and intensive care beds. Reports indicated high postoperative mortality among surgical patients who acquired Covid-19, raising significant concerns about patient safety.
“As a result, deferral of non-essential surgery was uniformly advised. The waiting lists we see today are the consequence of that deferral.
“We now need to increase surgical activity across the health service to meet the needs of these patients.”
The report makes a number of recommendations, including instructing that at least one ward should have no emergency admissions and should be ring-fenced despite operational pressures.
When an outbreak is reducing they should clear dedicated space to deal with the backlog of urgent and serious cases that have been deferred.
They should consider using the National Treatment Purchase Fund to allow extended working days from 7am to 7pm or Saturday working to treat urgent and serious cases – many of which can only be operated on in the larger public hospitals.
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said yesterday a new drive to reduce waiting lists for public patients will be made after the Budget.
There are plans for a taskforce to oversee the management of waiting lists, with proposals to provide multi-annual funding.
He said many patients who would otherwise have had to wait for traditional hospital appointments or to attend emergency departments could be treated in the community using these alternative pathways to care.
For example, a pilot service to manage people living with heart failure, provided by specialist nurses in Donegal, saw waiting times for new patient referrals drop from 18 months to between two and six weeks. The current target is to have 800 advanced practitioners at the end of the year.
Read the article on Independent.ie’s website here.
Learn more about the award-winning cloud based surgical eBooking, OR utilization, pre-op standardization and wait-list management technology here.