Belfast Telegraph

2,700 patients hit as Northern Ireland hospital cancels all non-emergency ops

By Donna Deeney

A Northern Ireland health trust is facing an unprecedented crisis with a potential 2,700 non-emergency operations postponed at one hospital.

Sources within the nursing staff at Altnagelvin Hospital in Londonderry told the Belfast Telegraph they were informed by managers that no non-emergency surgery would take place until October.

Based on figures supplied by the Western Health Trust for the last week in July, when 302 routine operations were scheduled, this equates to more than 2,500 people having to wait for ops.

One woman, who asked not to be identified, told the Belfast Telegraph that after waiting for more than two years for an operation she was shattered to find out she faced a further delay.

She said: "I suffer from a condition called chronic rhino-sinusitis which causes me a lot of discomfort and prevents me from sleeping properly.

"It is so bad I am often physically sick when I wake up in the morning. I was told in May that I was among the top 20 on the waiting list so I was expecting to get my operation some time over the summer.

"I was contacted by my consultant's secretary this week to say that not only was I not getting a date for my operation, but that anyone with a date were having their operations cancelled until October. By the time they get caught up with the backlog and get around to the people still on the waiting list like me, it could very well be next year.

"I know I am by no means the only person that has been waiting a long time for an operation but it is very frustrating and I am angry.

"It's not the fault of the nurses or the doctors, I don't blame them, but something needs to be done urgently to sort this out."

The Western Trust said: "The trust has temporarily suspended the booking of routine inpatient treatments.

"The situation at the hospital is reviewed on a daily basis with a view to making best use of our available bed capacity and to ensure our most clinically urgent patients receive their scheduled operations and treatments.

"It is important to note that out of the 302 potential routine operations scheduled between July 26 and July 31, 260 went ahead as planned."

Foyle SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan described the situation as a crisis that looks likely to continue.

He said: "The situation at Altnagelvin is symptomatic of a wider health workforce issue across the North.

"Failure to address this has led to operations being cancelled and is having a direct impact on patient care.

"How can we address the shortage of nurses?

"Valuing the ones we have and paying them appropriately would be a start.

"I am well aware that this is symptomatic of a wider crisis that is happening within healthcare here.

"It is so concerning and very serious, and unfortunately it is going to keep happening."

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