One or more mobile operating theatres could be at work in Ireland by the end of August to help reduce hospital waiting lists.

The Irish-born CEO of the world’s largest fleet of mobile operating theatres says they are ready to deploy one or more units after Health Minister Simon Harris yesterday unveiled five measures to be taken before the end of the year.

Vanguard Healthcare’s mobile theatres have helped hospitals in many parts of the EU to remove more than 235,000 patients from waiting lists.

Chief Executive Ian Gillespie said the company recognised that the highly-sophisticated mobile units were not an instant solution to the country’s waiting list problem.

“We understand from our work in other EU countries that waiting lists are complex and that adding additional operating theatre capacity is just part of the answer. But for hospitals in some areas they provide a very useful resource and can help to get waiting lists down quickly on an interim basis.

“We would be able to move one or more units to Ireland within a few weeks – and have them staffed by experienced theatre nursing staff. That means that the theatres would not take front-line nursing staff from existing duties. If we are able to help we certainly will”.

On Tuesday, Mr Harris said he would implement five measures before the end of the year:

1- 50% reduction in the 7,500 patients waiting over 18 months for in-patient procedures

2- Ensure that urgent cases will be seen to first

3- Special Delivery Unit (SDU) to visit all hospitals to check that waiting lists were coming down

4- An ‘improvement lead’ for each hospital group, specifically responsible for tackling waiting lists

5- The HSE have until the end of August to submit specific suggestions on how to improve waiting lists nationwide, using part of an extra €50 million funding.

On costs, Mr Gillespie, says that using mobile operating theatres would in fact be less expensive than the alternatives of using private hospitals or sending patients to Europe.

“The useful thing about a mobile unit is that it can be quickly placed close to a host hospital, where local surgeons and clinical teams can make use of it. This not only increases the surgical capacity at that hospital but it also keeps the patients within the Irish health care envelope”.

The number of claims submitted to the HSE by patients who have sought their healthcare in other EU countries almost doubled in the last quarter of 2015.1

In May last year, former health minister Leo Varadkar admitted that using private hospitals to reduce waiting lists was an expensive option2.

“We have a website-full of case studies from NHS hospitals in the UK where the management is under intense pressure to make cost savings while maintaining patient throughput. These hospitals are run by Chief Executives who would not encourage their clinical teams to work with mobiles unless they were a cost-effective solution”, Mr Gilliespie added.




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