Altnagelvin ‘under pressure’ to meet surgical demands

Derry’s Altnagelvin Hospital is under pressure to meet the demands for theatre time - leading to an increase in the number of planned and day surgeries being moved to either Omagh or the South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen.

A meeting of the Board of the Western Health and Social Care Trust heard on Thursday of last week that the pressure on the hospital’s operating theatres was unlikely to ease until the construction of the new North Wing was completed and additional theatres were opened.

This is likely to take in the region of two years.

Altnagelvin Hospital currently has seven operating theatres - although two of those must be kept free and prepared at all times to deal with emergency procedures.

The remaining five theatres are open and in constant use from morning until 8pm at night.

The issue of the pressure on the hospital was raised at the Board meeting by Chief Executive Elaine Way who said that while it was “generally accepted that Altnagelvin was the most important acute hospital outside of Belfast” the issue of pressure on the hospital’s theatres was placing great pressure on the Trust and on Altnagelvin itself.

The process has already begun of referring or moving patients due for planned procedures to the Tyrone County Hospital in Omagh or the recently opened South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen.

Geraldine McKay, Director of Acute Services at the Western Trust said that it had initially feared patients would be reluctant to travel outside of Derry for treatment but that so far this had not proved to be the case. She added that feedback from patients who had transferred had generally been very positive.

She said the referral of certain proceedures to the other hospitals paved the way to allow the theatres at Altnagelvin to be used for more complex surgeries and to become a centre of excellence for cancer care.