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Fall in surgeries during pandemic, finds new NCPS report

By David Lynch - 06th Oct 2021

Surgical operating team performing thoracic surgery in modern hospital, health

There were 17 per cent  fewer emergency surgeries and 30 per cent fewer elective surgeries performed during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new report published by the RCSI National Clinical Programme in Surgery (NCPS).

The most significant reduction in surgical discharges occurred in April and May 2020, dropping to 34.7 per cent of 2019 average monthly volumes.

The report, which examines the impact of Covid-19 on surgical activity in Ireland, also details the impact of the pandemic on waiting lists, showing a 153 per cent increase from April 2020 to April 2021 in the number of surgical patients waiting longer than 12 months for their procedures. The total surgical outpatient waiting list increased by 15 per cent.

RCSI President Professor Ronan O’Connell said “surgeons have responded to the challenges posed by the pandemic with collegiality, innovation and a relentless commitment to delivering safe care”.

“From the outset, the college and the clinical programmes sought to understand and respond to the challenges faced by surgeons in continuing to provide care and stay safe. A number of significant interventions were developed and many of these, including virtual out-patient consultations and community based care, will remain.”

NCPS Co-Lead Professor Deborah McNamara said “it is important to remember how little we knew about Covid and its duration in early 2020″.

“Italian hospitals were overrun, with inadequate ventilators…reports indicated high postoperative mortality among surgical patients who acquired Covid-19, raising significant concerns about patient safety. As a result, deferral of non-essential surgery was uniformly advised.

“The waiting lists we see today are the consequence of that deferral. We now need to increase surgical activity across the health service to meet the needs of these patients.”

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