Kidney Association looks for all-island approach

Association says transplant surgeons from North should be seconded to work in HSE and ensure donated organs not sent abroad

HSE deputy director of acute hospitals Angela Fitzgerald: says the situation is “far from ideal”  but the HSE is working on a number of short-term initiatives, including a worldwide recruitment campaign for locum transplant surgeons. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

HSE deputy director of acute hospitals Angela Fitzgerald: says the situation is “far from ideal” but the HSE is working on a number of short-term initiatives, including a worldwide recruitment campaign for locum transplant surgeons. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

 

Staff shortages affecting the Republic’s kidney transplantation programme could be overcome through an all-Ireland approach, it has been suggested.

In the short term, transplant surgeons from the North should be seconded to work on patients in the HSE and ensure donated organs are not sent abroad, according to the Irish Kidney Association.

It says in the longer term a second centre for kidney transplantation may be required, while there is scope for greater co-operation between the health services on both sides of the Border.

The Irish Times reported yesterday that a lack of staff at the national renal transplant programme at Beaumont Hospital may lead to donated organs being sent to the UK.

Talks are due to take place this week between HSE officials and consultants at the unit over a threat by staff to withdraw round-the-clock cover from next month.

Mark Murphy, chief executive of the association, said there was a sufficient supply of organ donors to double the number of kidney transplants being carried out, but staff shortages was holding back the number of operations performed. He said Beaumont was “too small” and working conditions were unattractive.

There were no staff to carry out pancreas transplants in the Republic since the retirement of David Hickey late last year, Mr Murphy also claimed. Between four and 12 pancreas transplants a year were carried out until recently.

More than 550 people are on a lengthening waiting list for kidney transplants, some of them needing a second transplant because their donated organ is starting to fail after 15 years.

Some 2,200 people in the Republic have had a kidney transplant, while 1,900 are on dialysis. Compared to the cost of dialysis, each kidney transplant saves the State over €750,000 over the lifetime of the transplant.

HSE deputy director of acute hospitals Angela Fitzgerald has said the situation is “far from ideal” but she has expressed confidence a solution will be found to lift the threat to cover arrangements.

She said the HSE was working on a number of short-term initiatives, including a worldwide recruitment campaign for locum transplant surgeons and a rearrangement of work to relieve the team of more routine duties. Longer term, there were plans to groom future transplant surgeons by creating a training fellowship and inducting staff from specialties other than urology.

Beaumont Hospital blamed the vacant posts on a worldwide shortage of surgeons and said the existing staff would be freed up from other commitments.