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A theatre built in the Dublin hospital to facilitate the lung transplant programme is “empty and unoccupied because there is no money for staff to run it at the moment”, National Transplant Society President Prof David Healy revealed at the Society’s recent Annual Meeting.
The Medical Independent (MI) understands that many lung cancer and heart surgeries scheduled at the Mater are cancelled when transplants go ahead. This also impacts on patients waiting to transfer to the Mater, which is the national centre for cardiothoracic surgery and only national facility with extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO).
“By their nature, transplants are unplanned,” an IEHG spokesperson told MI. “As there is no specific transplant theatre, it is common that a transplant case will replace a planned case and as such, cancellations are a feature of the service. To support the growing demand in the National Transplant Programme, along with major cardiac and thoracic surgical demand, it was always the intention of the Mater Hospital to open additional theatre capacity as the programmes grew in scale. The physical theatre is in place in the recently-opened Whitty building, but requires staffing. This planned expansion is now critical to meet demand.”
Meanwhile, the IEHG also confirmed that a heart transplant physician post is being developed for the Mater Hospital. Currently, no such full-time position exists in the hospital. The spokesperson said a locum post “will be sought to step in until it is filled permanently”.
Last year, a new record was set for lung transplants in Ireland, at 36, representing one of highest rates in Europe. During 2015, Ireland’s first ever combined heart and lung transplant was conducted at the Mater.