Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Heartening news of imminent Surgery ?

Record heart surgery waits

As a heart patient whose long wait allowed my arteries to a point that further intervention wasn’t possible, I have great empathy for those anxious patients waiting for heart surgery. Thirteen years ago, I had to wait 4 weeks for an angiogram, and then a further five weeks for my surgery.  At the time, my cardiologist did his best to hurry the surgeons up because my condition was deemed to be serious.  Eventually a great surgeon pinched my radial artery and said, “There’s a 98% you’ll be ok, and a 50% chance that you’ll die within a couple of months if you don’t have the bypass !” Tough choice – right ?

However, I had a row of stitches down to my abdomen and was invited to join the Zipper Club.  After a few weeks to get mobile, I looked back on my life and realised what a huge waste of time it had been as I hadn’t really done anything that meant amounted to a hill of beans.  Anyway, the easiest decision I had made in my life was to devote all the time I had to helping other heart patients which, for me, was somewhat noble.

Right now, I can at least feel that I have managed to be of help to many patients, increasing my remit to putting my name down on four help lines, which included other surgical patients and the mentally ill. My efforts still don’t amount to a hill of beans but I feel a hell of a lot better for giving it my best efforts.  Today’s horror story is that 950 patients are waiting for heart surgery.  Of these, 183 have been waiting more than 36 weeks – a record high for five years. [During those 5 years, the Royal College of surgeons found that 152 of those poor souls had died before getting anywhere near the operating theater.  Don’t ask me to check the Math. but 63.8% of patients had been waiting 26 weeks, or less.

With a typically casual response, the Welsh Government announced that some patients would be offered the opportunity to be treated in England, after an assessment of risk to life ( lucky them )  As yet, we have no idea how long it will take to reduce the backlog – especially when the hospitals had cancelled elective surgery, to make enough beds available for the “excessive winter demand” ( to quote Director Graham Shortland’s broken record ).

In my opinion, these long waiting lists are due solely to the incompetence of the NHS Wales and our government, who consistently proved that devolving health to their care was a BIG mistake. [God help us if the recommendations of the Silk report are implemented. To my mind, a referendum on devolution should be carried out with great urgency, so that the myth of an effective devolved government may be dispelled forever !].  Until then, we’ll be forced to endure higher mortality rates and a nation of poorly educated kids.   R. W.

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