Minister urged to get surgeon to reconsider shock resignation

The chairperson of the HSE West’s regional health forum is calling on Health Minister Dr James Reilly to urge colorectal surgeon Mr Myles Joyce, who handed in his resignation at University Hospital Galway after 15 months due to the facility’s failure to provide him with adequate theatre time, to reconsider his decision.

Cllr Padraig Conneely says the HSE and the Department of Health should make every effort to persuade the surgeon, who previously worked at the Cleveland Clinic in the United States, to stay.

“His resignation was a major setback for the regional hospital’s cancer care service and was done out of sheer frustration. He felt he had to leave because he could not perform the job he was being paid to do as he was not being given sufficient theatre time to do operations.

“Efforts should be made to encourage him to stay. Dr Reilly has asked for a full report on why the surgeon felt he had to resign.”

Cllr Conneely says the decision to advertise earlier this week for a new management team, including a chief executive, chief operations officer and chief financial officer for Galway University Hospitals [UHG and Merlin Park] illustrates his commitment to the west’s biggest hospital which has languished at the bottom of the HSE’s league tables in terms of performance and will signal a new era.

“I feel there is real change on the way at last,” says the former mayor. “This is essential at a time when there are almost 35,000 people on outpatient waiting lists at University and Merlin Park hospitals. This is an all time high - the figures for 2009 were 23,000. A sum of €12 million is also owed to the hospitals from private health insurance companies because some consultants have not signed off on patient claims and submitted their bills.

“In the latest HSE HealthStat figures [which rates hospitals’ performances] Galway again was the worst performing hospital. A combination of all this has led Minister Reilly to take action. I’m delighted I’ve been vindicated. I’ve been voicing my concerns about UHG for four to five years, I’ve always highlighted the plight of public patients, the old and vulnerable who lie for days and days on trolleys at A&E and are not able to speak for themselves. I came in for a lot of criticism for this but I’ve been listened to at last. My concerns were justified, the Minister has agreed with me and is moving on the issue. I welcome this, this is a step forward. New structures will be going in [to the hospital] and I am hoping it will be the centre of excellence it should be.

“Since I spoke out about Mr Joyce’s resignation I have received a huge response from consultants and the public. I’ve been inundated with telephone calls and letters.”

Cllr Conneely states he has been briefing the health minister on the Galway hospital situation on a weekly basis since he became firstly Fine Gael’s spokesperson on health and later the minister in charge of that portfolio. He says he found him “responsive”.

“He told me recently that he was monitoring the situation. His words were: ‘Galway is on my radar, I’m keeping a close eye on it. You watch this space.’

“Three weeks ago he had a meeting with John Hennessy, the HSE West’s regional director of operations and the manager of UHG Dr David O’Keeffe to discuss the problems here. He told them he was unhappy with Galway and things would have to change.”

The Minister’s parliamentary secretary contacted Cllr Conneely on Saturday - when Dr Reilly was in Galway to address a GP conference - requesting to meet him.

“I went to meet him at the hotel and he told me action had been taken as regards UHG. He said new positions were being advertised in the Sunday Independent and he said he thought I would be happy with this. He said the hospital could not continue the way it was going.”

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