More procedures cancelled by patients than by hospitals, regional health forum told

More day case procedures were deferred at Galway University Hospitals (UHG and Merlin Park ) last year by patients than by the hospitals, it was revealed this week.

Almost 2,700 elective day case procedures were deferred by patients in 2013. Of these 991 failed to turn up while 1,700 were deferred following a request from a parent or guardian.

A meeting of the HSE West’s regional health forum was told this week that 2,178 elective day case procedures were deferred by the regional hospital last year. The reason, in more than 1,600 cases, was as a result of a clinicial decision taken by a consultant.

A total of 1,158 elective in-patient procedures were deferred by the hospital in 2013 for a number of reasons. These included being cancelled/deferred by the consultant because of a clinical decision or due to there being no bed or theatre available.

In addition, 309 procedures were cancelled/deferred by patients because of not being clinically fit or due to a request from a guardian/patient. Cancellations represent about three per cent of the total number of inpatient procedures carried out.

The information was in response to a query from City Mayor and chairperson of the forum Cllr Padraig Conneely.

In a written reply, Bill Maher, the chief executive of the West North West Hospital Group, said it was notable that more day case procedures were deferred by patients than the hospital. The total number of hospital deferrals represented about 2.5 per cent of all day case procedures.

He outlined that GUH carried out 38,482 inpatient procedures in 2013 and met the waiting list target. This stipulates that adults should not wait more than eight months for a procedure and that children do not wait longer than 20 weeks. It also states that all “scopes” should be carried out within 13 weeks.

Cllr Conneely says it is unacceptable that people, often who have been admitted to hospital and are fasting in advance of procedures, are being sent home without having had their operations carried out.

He cited the case of an elderly city man who was admitted on four occasions to UHG but was discharged each time without having had his procedure done.

“This is not good enough,” he declared, “it is not acceptable to me in 2014.” He said there must be something wrong with the system. He revealed he has been contacted by a number of people who are concerned at the ongoing deferrals.

Tony Canavan, the chief operating officer for the West/North West Hospitals Group, explained that some of the 1,158 elective in-patient procedures which were deferred were “definitely for good clinical reasons” because some patients were unfit for the procedures. Sometimes deferrals are due to the hospital not having sufficient beds or theatre capacity, he stated. It was “extremely regretable” he said that people in hospital beds or at home were having procedures deferred. He added that the hospital makes every effort to get patients in as quickly as it can.

He reiterated that almost 38,500 inpatient procedures took place last year and cancellations represented three per cent of these. This meant that 97 per cent of patients scheduled for in-patient procedures were not deferred, he stressed. He anticipated that the three per cent of deferrals could be reduced during summer as the pressure on the health service reduces at that time of year.

Mr Canavan told the meeting that some of the reasons patients given for deferring procedures themselves were “very good” but some were “not so good”. Each of these cases affects the hospital’s resources, he said, because preparations are made for procedures but the patient fails to turn up.

Cllr Conneely said the most common reason patients give for deferrals is “there is no theatre available”. He asked if there was a problem hiring theatre staff.

Mr Canavan replied that lack of beds and theatre capacity were the key isses causing the problem. He added there had been “a struggle” over the years to recruit theatre nurses.

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