Postponement of surgeries at UHK a worrying development

We’re in for a very turbulent winter of discontent on the healthcare front, considering the way things are shaping up already, even while temperatures are still high and the dark nights have still not moved in around us.

Last week, the authorities at University Hospital Kerry called a halt to all elective surgeries because they were unable to manage such procedures together with a surge in demand at the hospital’s emergency department. This ban on elective surgeries went on for five days, including Saturday and Sunday.

There are now real concerns about what is happening at UHK - or more precisely, what is not happening.

Covid-19 has, understandably, knocked the health service off its centre of gravity. When the pandemic began, the HSE went into classic panic mode, decks were cleared, patients were entirely discomoded and tens of millions of euro were spent when they shouldn’t have been.

(That over-spending is another little chicken that’ll be coming home to roost one of these days.)

One of the biggest threats to healthcare services at UHK has been a shortage of qualified staff, including consultants and nurses. The HSE cannot be accused of covering itself in glory when it comes to attracting necessary personnel to the hospital and it’s now reckoned that as many as 100 nursing posts have to be filled.

This, of course, has been going on for some time, even before Covid began tormenting us.

The people of Kerry have been blackguarded and neglected by successive governments when it comes to healthcare. And with recent developments at UHK, people are entitled to be very concerned that the health service offering in Kerry is not fit for purpose.

There is little doubt that since the pandemic began many hundreds of people in Kerry have developed health problems which have not yet been addressed properly. Tragically, this is going to result in trauma and tears, loss and heartache.

Problems at UHK were predictable and the postponement of elective surgeries cannot be regarded as anything but a manifest failure.

Such deferrals are important and sometimes life-changing. Patients need these procedures to be carried out in a timely fashion and the word ‘elective’ tends to obscure the seriousness involved.

Those responsible need to put the UHK house in order - it’s the least the people of Kerry are entitled to.