Orthopaedic services restored to normality at Merlin

One of two operating theatres and up to to 13 beds at Merlin Park Hospital’s orthopaedic department would have closed if additional nursing staff had not been appointed to the facility on the east side of the city, it was claimed this week.

Almost one third of the nurses attached to the 25-bed unit retired in February and could not be replaced due to the ongoing recruitment ban in the public service.

However, orthopaedic services were restored to normality this week as the vacancies arising from the spate of retirements were filled following intervention by the Minister for Health, Dr James Reilly.

Local Fine Gael TD Brian Walsh arranged an urgent meeting with both the orthopaedic consultants and the Minister for Health in January amid warnings that the exodus would cripple service provision in the west.

The Minister subsequently acceded to Deputy Walsh’s request for the recruitment ban to be lifted and this week it was confirmed that additional staff had been put in place to offset the impact of the retirements.

“If the situation had been allowed to proceed unaddressed we would now be facing the closure of one of the department’s two operating theatres and up to 13 of the beds in the existing 25-bed unit,” said the Galway West TD.

“The Minister acted quickly in sanctioning measures to address the crisis and I am pleased to report that levels have been restored this week to what they were prior to the retirements in February.”

It was confirmed to Deputy Walsh in response to a parliamentary question in the Dáil last month that vacancies arising from the retirements would be filled with permanent replacements.

Existing nursing staff have also been allocated additional paid hours while staff previously on reduced hours have agreed to increase their hours permanently in order to bolster services at the hospital.

“Red tape associated with the recruitment process can sometimes be slow which accounts for a delay between the political decision to sanction the replacements and actually getting nurses back on the wards,” explained Deputy Walsh.

“However, I received correspondence this week from one of the consultants at the department to report that levels had been restored. I am pleased that the matter has been addressed and I thank Minister Reilly for his intervention.

“Galway has been very fortunate to have arguably the best orthopaedic department in the country and an exceptional team of surgeons who have done tremendous work in developing the service in recent years.”

He said these recruitments will ensure that the resources with which those surgeons work are restored to the level they were at prior to the spate of retirements earlier this year.

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