All elective procedures cancelled at Limerick Hospitals Group

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University of Limerick Hospitals Group Cancer Services Director Dr James O'Keeffe.
University of Limerick Hospitals Group Cancer Services Director Dr James O'Keeffe.

THE Clinical Director of Cancer Services at the University of Limerick Hospitals Group has confirmed that all elective procedures have been cancelled for the first two weeks in January to prioritise emergency care.

Dr Denis O’Keeffe told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme that 658 healthcare workers were out yesterday due to Covid-19 which, he said, was 14 per cent of the workforce across medical, nursing and administrative teams.

He said “clinical judgements” are being made on a case-by-case basis to determine what patients are currently being prioritised.

“You have to focus on those patients who clearly need urgent investigations or treatment. It does mean that for those patients who are considered lower risk, as part of their elective procedures, that they’re not happening over the next two-weeks, but it’s very much based upon the clinical judgement as to what is urgent and what is non-urgent,” he explained.

While Dr O’Keeffe did not provide a figure for how many procedures are currently being deferred, he said in recent years 680 outpatient appointments and 120-day case procedures would normally be carried-out each day.

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“Those are cancelled at the moment over two weeks,” he added.

In terms of the derogation which allows healthcare workers – who have been deemed a close contact of confirmed case but who are not symptomatic to return to work with daily testing – Dr O’Keeffe said given the high-risk nature of cancer treatment his teams are “very rarely” using the derogation.

“We are really not using that at the moment. What’s happening is that staff are being redeployed to key areas and it’s the flexibility and the commitment of the staff which has really allowed us to minimise derogation because derogation still means that there could be a risk for patients from staff who may still be transmitting the Covid virus,” he added.