New hubs to cut public waiting lists welcomed by surgeon

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly. Photo: Frank McGrath

Eilish O'Regan

Plans to open six surgical hubs across the country to reduce public hospital waiting lists were welcomed by a leading surgeon yesterday.

Prof Deborah McNamara a consultant surgeon at Beaumont Hospital said: “Waiting lists for surgical care in Ireland are unacceptably long. Patients waiting for scheduled care too often have their procedures cancelled when hospital systems are under pressure. We welcome initiatives such as this which will increase surgical capacity in Ireland.”

She was speaking after it was announced six stand-alone surgical hubs, separate to hospital sites, are to be opened over the course of the next year in a bid to reduce public waiting lists.

The hubs would concentrate on day surgeries and would be separate to hospitals, avoiding the risk of cancellations due to admission of patients to beds from emergency departments.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said the developments are estimated at a cost of €100-120m between capital and revenue, subject to the estimates process .

They include a modular build in Merlin Park University Hospital, Galway and a modular build in Cork University Hospital. There will be a “turnkey fit-out “in Dublin north and a refurbishment of a building for a hub in on the site of Mount Carmel Hospital in south Dublin . It is envisaged to have a modular build in Waterford and rapid modular build in Limerick.

“They will also allow hospitals to focus on other areas of waiting lists as many day-case procedures can be moved to the surgical hubs,” Mr Donnelly said.

“The hubs are being modelled on the very successful Reeves centre at Tallaght University Hospital. Over the course of the first 24 months of operation of the Reeves centre, the total number of patients waiting on day case surgery reduced by 58pc, with a 91pc reduction in patients waiting over three months.”

Mr Donnelly added: “These surgical hubs now being developed will address waiting lists in the shorter term and will complement the longer-term development of regional elective hospitals in Galway, Cork and Dublin.

“We continue to see the successful operation of the surgical hub at the Reeves Centre in Tallaght University Hospital in Dublin where many waiting lists for day-case procedures have fallen dramatically and been eliminated.

“I’ve asked the HSE to ensure that the first of the new hubs will be operational before the end of this year, with more following in 2024.”

The most recent hospital waiting list figures show there are 830,000 people on some form of queue in the public system.

There were 84,797 people waiting for inpatient care and 596,265 on a list for an outpatient appointment

Prof McNamara, who is vice president of the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland (RCSI) said that current waiting times for surgery in Ireland remain a challenge for the health service. The expansion of elective surgical services, through these new hubs, will help improve access to timely scheduled surgical care for patients.

RCSI recently hosted a conference focused on the workforce requirements of the new hubs. An expansion in services provides the opportunity to develop an innovative approach to addressing the global shortages in the nursing and medical workforce. This could include the development of a career pathway for perioperative nursing, expansion of the physician associate workforce and the introduction of new roles in the operating theatre.

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