Waiting list growing while ‘leaky’ operating theatres closed

Merlin Park Hospital

Operating theatres at Merlin Park Hospital, which were closed in 2017 due to leaking roofs, will now not be fully open until this coming Summer at the earliest.

And the latest figures confirm that the waiting list for orthopaedic surgery has grown to 1,500 people since the theatres were closed. This is despite repeated assurances that the situation would be dealt with as a matter of urgency.

A group of 10 orthopaedic surgeons wrote to Health Minister Simon Harris this week confirming that 1,500 patients are waiting for complex joint replacements, spinal surgery, foot and ankle and shoulder surgery and that the waiting list continues to expand exponentially.

The list, they said, is as long as it was back in September 2017 when the problem first emerged and two theatres were closed because of leaks in the ceiling.

Galway West TD Catherine Connolly has raised the matter numerous times in the Dáil and has been told that modular theatres would be provided as a matter of urgency and in the intervening period alternative arrangements would be made for the patients.

Saolta confirmed a service had been restored in March 2018 with the provision of one new theatre. It said that contracts had been exchanged for a modular theatre, however no explanation has been forthcoming as to why it will be the middle of 2019 before the new theatre is opened.

“It is completely unacceptable that no progress appears to have been made in the provision of modular theatres almost a year and a half after the initial closure. I welcome the fact that the surgeons have spoken out on behalf of their suffering patients and as well as raising it in the Dáil I will be asking Minister Harris for an urgent meeting in this regard.”

The HSE sought planning permission in December for a new modular theatre building on the grounds of Merlin Park Hospital, to replace the existing units and officials said they are hopeful that the existing theatre – which re-opened in March 2018 – can be used to relieve waiting lists at UHG.

The new 613 square metre building and link corridor at the main hospital building will replace the existing to theatres, which the HSE has described as “no longer fit for purpose”.

According to the planning application, the development is an “upgrade and consolidation” of the existing theatre services, with no discernible increase in staff, patient or vehicle movements.

A decision on the planning application is expected at the end of this month.