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Cancellations of Operations touch 22,000

Last year about 22,000 operations were cancelled by 34 hospitals across the State according to new figures.//

According to the report from these hospitals thousands of patients had their operations cancelled because the hospitals they were scheduled to be admitted to for elective surgery in 2005 had no vacant beds.

The State’s biggest hospital, St James's in Dublin had to cancel 4,281 operations last year. Of these some 3,598 were said to have been cancelled because beds were not available.

Cancellations for the other operations had varied reasons including patients not attending in 337 cases, in 220 cases the consultant had to prioritize another patient ,in 77 cases the patient was assessed as unfit and the consultant was unavailable in 49 cases.

Similar situations were also reported in Tallaght Hospital, Dublin and in Letterkenny General Hospital as well as Ennis General Hospital, in Waterford Regional Hospital and at Wexford General Hospital too the cancellations were attributed to lack of bed availability.

Compared to the figures for 2004, the data released appeared to indicate that about 1,500 more operations had to be cancelled by hospitals last year than the year before. The figures, released under the Freedom of Information Act, show a total of 21,983 operations were cancelled by 34 hospitals across the State last year compared to 20,428 cancelled by 32 hospitals in 2004.

However, since many hospitals in the State could not provide figures for 2005 it meant that the true numbers of operations cancelled last year is likely to be even higher than the figures which have been released show.

Reports from the Tullamore General Hospital where 1,243 operations were cancelled, showed that some 829 of these operations were put off as a result of patients cancelling the surgery themselves or not attending. Another 282 were put off at this hospital because no beds were available and 132 were "cancell ed by consultant".

However Galway city's two main hospitals, University College Hospital and Merlin Park Regional Hospital, said that cases cancelled by patients or cases where patients did not keep their appointment were not included in its total figure of 3,334 operations cancelled last year. It added that cancelled procedures are relisted for the following day and this can result in the same procedure being deferred a number of times.

The Health Service Executive said that it had recognized that the deferral of operations can cause inconvenience for patients and that it was endeavoring to keep them to a minimum and to have postponed operations rescheduled as soon as possible.

It added that the figures for total operations cancelled in 2005 represented less than 3.4 per cent of the total number of operations performed during the year.

According to Janette Byrne of Patients Together the problems in the health service, whether it was patients having their operations cancelled or lying on trolleys in A&E, all seemed to come back to the need for extra hospital beds and the sooner the HSE and the Minister for Health, Mary Harney, realised this, the better.

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