Pancreas transplant service to be moved, claims Beaumont

Programme founder Dr David Hickey: Hospital ‘had no idea what they’re talking about’

Dr David Hickey, who founded the programme, but retired last December said “you can’t just flick a switch and call it a transplant centre. Who is going to do the work?” Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Dr David Hickey, who founded the programme, but retired last December said “you can’t just flick a switch and call it a transplant centre. Who is going to do the work?” Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

The national pancreas transplantation programme is to be transferred from Dublin’s Beaumont Hospital to St Vincent’s hospital from next month, according to Beaumont Hospital.

The initiative, to be announced formally on Wednesday, will facilitate a sharing of resources and the promotion of improvements in transplantation services, the hospital said in a statement.

St Vincent’s was the national liver transplant centre and a designated centre for pancreas cancer services, it said. “As the majority of these cases are combined pancreas and kidney transplants, Beaumont consultants will carry out kidney transplants with their colleagues in St Vincent’s.”

Pancreas transplants

The statement was issued in response to queries from The Irish Times about the future of the pancreas transplant service since David Hickey, who founded the programme, retired last December.

No pancreas transplants have been carried out since then and the kidney transplant programme at Beaumont has suffered from understaffing.

Mr Hickey said on Tuesday night that Beaumont had “no idea what they’re talking about” in relation to the proposed transfer of services to St Vincent’s. “You can’t just flick a switch and call it a transplant centre. Who is going to do the work?”

Beaumont said the pancreas transplant programme has been provided “on a pilot basis” in the northside hospital since 1998. Currently, there were eight patients on the waiting list, the hospital said.

Mr Hickey, who played on the Dublin All-Ireland winning football team in the 1970s, said he had been carrying out pancreas transplants since 1992 and claimed there were 18 people on the waiting list. The vast majority require the simultaneous replacement of both kidneys and the pancreas.

Since his departure, the hospital has advertised a number of times for transplant surgeons to fill vacancies in the national kidney and pancreas transplant programme, but no one with the required skills has been found.

As an interim measure, a surgeon from Northern Ireland is working one week in four in the hospital.

Mr Hickey said there were qualified people who can carry out pancreas transplants “but they need supervision”. Beaumont had told him it had no funding for this, he said.

Complex

A pancreas transplant is one of the most technically complex of all organ transplants. Since the transplant programme was set up, an average of eight pancreas transplants have been carried out each year. Survival rates – 74 per cent after five years, and 51 per cent after 15 years – are above international averages.

Each transplant is estimated to save the health system up to €700,000 over a 15-year period, relative to the cost of dialysis.