There are 940 people waiting for hip and knee replacements in Galway, and the list is growing by the day due to the ongoing closure of theatres.
A leaking roof at Merlin Park Hospital has resulted in the postponement of orthopaedic surgeries at the city hospital.
Earlier this month we reported that replacement portacabins, to be used as temporary theatres as a stopgap until the leaks are repaired, will not come on stream until January.
Now we can reveal that the waiting lists for orthopaedic is almost 1,000 and they are getting longer every day due to the deferral of theatres at Merlin Park.
Figures obtained by the Connacht Tribune show there are 393 day-cases on the orthopaedics waiting list at Galway University Hospitals, including 26 who have been waiting for over a year.
There are a further 547 inpatients on the orthopaedics waiting list at GUH, including almost 100 waiting over a year.
Galway East Deputy Anne Rabbitte, who was supplied with the figures from the HSE, said it was “a big worry” that the waiting lists will escalate.
“My fear is that the waiting lists, which are already close to 1,000, will get worse before the temporary theatres are brought into use,” said Deputy Rabbitte.
“It’s not looking like we are going to get these theatres back up and running this side of Christmas, which is six or eight weeks, and all the while the waiting lists are going to keep growing and growing and growing.
“You have the winter drawing in now, and people are waiting for their knee and hip operations and some of them are living in fear of falling again and causing more damage. We need to be mindful of the human stories behind the facts and figures. People are suffering the longer they have to wait for surgeries,” she said.
The Fianna Fáil spokesperson for children and youth affairs said the HSE needs to be more proactive in finding a solution to this problem. “Silence is condolence as far as I’m concerned. They have been very quiet on this issue. Why aren’t we using Portiuncula and Roscommon to transfer some of the cases to ease the waiting lists. Why are we not using the National Treatment Purchase Fund to alleviate the lists – the money is there, why not transfer cases to the Bon Secours or to the Galway Clinic. The patient doesn’t care whether it’s a private or public hospital as long as they’re seen to.”
Health Minister Simon Harris was due to visit Galway a fortnight ago, but postponed at the last minute, which has raised the suspicion of Deputy Rabbitte.
“Why did he postpone that visit? Is it because he had no good news announcement about the replacement theatres at Merlin Park. I’m concerned that the temporary solution will take a lot longer to put in place than they are letting on, and all the while waiting lists are growing,” she said.
Chris Kane, general manager at GUH, in a response to Deputy Rabbitte, said an initial assessment of the roof at Merlin Park had taken place, and a more detailed survey was expected. Ms Kane confirmed elective orthopaedic procedures that had been scheduled have been deferred until further notice.
“We are exploring options to facilitate the resumption of some parts of the elective orthopaedic service at UHG and also a temporary modular theatre facility at Merlin Park as short-term solutions.
“The hospital has held joint union meetings with staff and management to assist in planning of staff redeployment as a direct result of the infrastructural issues. We will continue to consult and communicate with staff on an ongoing basis and reassign staff to the areas such as theatres, UHG and areas where deficits have been identified,” added Ms Kane.