Orthopaedic waiting lists - 22/5/2006

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Orthopaedic operations
Carmel Sciberras, president, Association of Orthopaedic and Trauma Surgeons, Guardamangia.

Joseph A. Muscat wrote (May 9) that the 6,000+ patients waiting for an orthopaedic operation constitutes a disgrace.

We agree it is a disgrace but our Association of Orthopaedic and Trauma Surgeons (AOTSM) would like to comment briefly on some of the reasons why our waiting lists are so long.

Each orthopaedic consultant has only one operating list a week in St Luke's Hospital. Invariably, more patients are put on the waiting list per week (from the outpatient clinics, etc) than are actually operated upon. Hence the waiting list never decreases but instead grows steadily.

These weekly operating lists have been curtailed even further over the past year or so because of lack of anaesthetists.

Many anaesthetists have left the island for new, far better feeding pastures. The waiting list goes up.

Over the past three to four years, we have had to cut down on our operating several times because of lack of beds in the wards.

A significant number of beds were occupied by so-called "social cases" and over the winter months by "medical patients" overflowing from the medical wards. The waiting list goes up.

In addition, over the past two years we have had to stop operating for several weeks on two occasions because of outbreaks of MRSA infection. The waiting list went up.

The economic situation of the country is such that more and more people are opting for free state care rather than expensive private operations. The waiting list goes up.

And, yet, despite the above, the output in terms of the number of outpatients seen and the variety of operations carried out by the orthopaedic surgeons has increased over the past five years:

Outpatients: year 2000 - 16,264; year 2005 - 22,201 (official figures).

Operations: year 2000 - 2,835; year 2005 - 3,145.

We do not believe this is a disgrace.

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