Wednesday, November 12, 2008

'Patients with liver failure are being turned away. It's crazy'

It's only too often that we learn about transplant patients, some who have been on the waiting list for years, being turned away due to the lack of hospital resources such as surgeons and available beds. This particular case occurred in the UK but we see it happening more and more everywhere.

A senior doctor at Birmingham Children's Hospital gave The Observer an insider's account of the many problems there. He spoke on condition of anonymity:

"The Birmingham Children's Hospital is a major regional and national centre of excellence in paediatric care. In some of what we do, we are recognised as being world-class. Yet there aren't enough beds at the hospital for all the children who need to be treated in many of what are called our "tertiary services", such as children who need an organ transplant, or have a flat head, a complex heart problem or a major facial deformity, or who require brain surgery.

"For example, despite being a national centre for chronic liver problems in children we have to turn away some patients with acute liver failure and send them to Leeds or London because there are no beds available. It's crazy.

"It's the same with operating theatres. We have seven, but they're full most of the time. We need at least two more. Surgeons feel hampered by a lack of space. That means they can't treat the number of patients that they would like.

"The most senior doctor in the liver transplantation unit has been asking hospital management to hire a second consultant to perform and supervise these operations. It simply wasn't viable to continue relying on the one consultant to do all these complex procedures, some of which require several surgeons. But we were told that there was a lack of resources. It's only recently, after three years of lobbying, that the hospital has agreed to recruit a second consultant.

"Some of the consultants here are disillusioned. They feel that they have been regularly raising important issues with the hospital's management for two or three years, but that very little has been done.

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