Maintaining scheduled care access for all patients is a key priority for hospitals. I fully acknowledge the distress and inconvenience for patients and their families when elective procedures are cancelled, particularly for clinically urgent procedures.
While every effort is made to avoid cancellation or postponement of planned procedures, the HSE advise that planned procedures and operations can be postponed or cancelled for a variety of reasons including capacity issues due to increased scheduled and unscheduled care demand, medical reasons, and patient choice.
The HSE has advised my Department that four scheduled surgeries were cancelled at University Hospital Waterford (UHW) on the 14 of June 2019. The HSE further advise that as of 7am on Friday 14 of June last, there were 31 admitted patients in the Emergency Department and 8 extra patients on trolleys at ward level at the hospital. As the demand for critical care beds already exceeded what was available on that day there was no critical care capacity available or likely to be available for patients that would require post-operative specialist critical care that day.
As a result, and in line with the hospital’s escalation policy, the HSE has advised that four scheduled surgeries were cancelled. The HSE has further advised that the patients will be contacted urgently to reschedule their appointments.
In addition, the Deputy will be aware that increasing capacity across our hospitals is a priority for Government. An additional 241 acute hospital beds opened under the Winter Initiative 2017/2018, including 18 additional acute beds in Waterford University Hospital. Furthermore, the National Service Plan for 2019 provides for a comprehensive capacity programme and as part of that programme, an additional 6 acute beds have opened this year in UHW under the 2018/2019 Winter Plan.
The 2019 capacity programme also provides for 202 additional beds, including 24 beds in UHW during 2019 with a view to bringing this extra capacity into operation in Q1 of 2020.
In relation to the specific procedures that were cancelled by the hospital, as this is a service matter, I have asked the HSE to respond to you directly.