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Republic of Ireland: At least 200,000 people missed essential surgery due to Covid, conference told

At least 200,000 people missed out on essential surgery as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, with many enduring “misery and daily pain” as a result, a conference has heard.

Both scheduled and emergency surgery levels dropped by 20% during the pandemic, suggesting there is now significant pent-up demand for treatment, according to the national clinical lead in surgery, Prof Deborah McNamara.

Almost 343,000 people are waiting to see a surgeon for the first time, 100,000 of whom have been on a waiting list for more than 18 months, she told the conference on outcomes from the pandemic at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI).

This was only the start of delays for patients, she pointed out, as they have to wait again for their procedure to be carried out. Currently, more than 71,000 patients are waiting for surgery, a fifth of whom have been on the list for more than a year.

Long-waiting patients needing complex surgery have been disproportionately affected, she said, as the system focused on treating “quick-win” procedures such as endoscopies. The amount of day-case work carried out by hospitals is back to 84 per cent of 2017 levels, yet complex care remains at only 67 per cent, she pointed out. Patients waiting for surgery were enduring a “huge amount of misery” that remains unquantified, according to Prof McNamara.

The pandemic resulted in some positive changes, she said, including shorter hospital stays, a greater role for physician associates and a generational change in the use of IT. However, it also led to greater constriction in the capacity for scheduled surgery, and greater seasonal variations in demand.

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Source: The Irish Times, 26 April 2022


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