Top cancer surgeon quits hospital in frustation over lack of theatre time

A leading bowel cancer surgeon at University Hospital Galway has quit his post after 15 months because of the hospital’s failure to make adequate theatre time available to him to carry out operations, the chairperson of the HSE West’s regional health forum alleged this week.

Cllr Padraig Conneely said the colorectal specialist’s resignation, which occurred last week, is a major setback for the regional hospital’s cancer care service.

“This highly qualified surgeon, who previously worked in the United States, handed in his resignation last week. He got a job here in the cancer care department of UHG 15 months ago but handed in his resignation out of sheer frustration. He had been consistently writing to hospital management seeking to have the problem sorted out.

“He is a leading colorectal surgeon and he wanted to work but he could not perform the job he was being paid to do because he was not being given sufficient theatre time to do operations.”

The Fine Gael city councillor fears other specialists will resign in the future as they too become frustrated with the system.

“It may also discourage other top medical people from coming here. Why would they give up top jobs abroad to come back here and find they cannot carry out the work they were trained to do, to find themselves some days doing nothing. There will be more like him, who will walk out. We seem to have major problems in Galway, this doesn’t seem to be happening anywhere else.

“And most of all what about the patients on waiting lists with medical concerns? Will they have to wait even longer for treatment?”

Cllr Conneely said the regional hospital is a designated centre of exellence for cancer care and to lose such an eminent surgeon is a major setback for cancer patients in the west.

“In the recently published HSE National HealthStat report UHG was named as the worst performing hospital in the country - in need of urgent attention. Something is wrong that it is at the bottom of the pile.”

He stated the next report from HealthStat - the HSE league table which measures hospitals’ performances against other hospitals with a view to learning from the top scorers - will indicate the effects of the resignation of the bowel cancer specialist.

“There is no-one now specialising in bowel cancer at UHG. This specialist was taken on to work at the hospital, which is supposed to be a designated centre of excellence for cancer care - I’ve never claimed that myself though - yet he couldn’t get enough theatre space.”

Cllr Conneely is calling on Health Minister Dr James Reilly to adopt a “hands on” approach to the west’s biggest hospital and immediately sort out what he alleges are “serious management issues” at the facility.

In response to a query from this newspaper about the resignation of the colorectal surgeon a spokesperson for the HSE West said it does not comment on “individual staff HR matters”.

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