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Doctors warn of surgery crisis due to shortage of equipment

Supply and demand: doctors claim that life-saving equipment at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital often run low (File photograph)

Emergency medical procedures could be postponed because of a lack of basic surgical supplies, it has been claimed.

Surgeons held talks with Bermuda Hospitals Board officials earlier this month to discuss the shortage, which one doctor described as “dire”.

The physician, who wished to remain anonymous, said the problem had been caused by global supply chain issues.

She said: “There’s an acute shortage of supplies, the situation is dire and patients are in danger.

“This affects all of us because if someone had to have an emergency appendectomy, they don’t have the basic equipment to carry out the surgery.”

A second doctor, who also asked not to be named, said that supplies of specialist equipment used in the operating room of King Edward VII Memorial Hospital were constantly at risk of running out.

The doctor said: “The situation in the OR is critical because they are running out of basic surgical supplies every day. They haven’t got basic supplies such as needles.

“Some elective surgeries have had to be cancelled. I don’t know what’s happening with the procurement process but we will have enough of certain supplies one day, and then the next day – suddenly we’ve run out.

“We’re told that there are supply chain issues but that’s hard to believe as there are certain products that are available and can be obtained outside the hospital. I think the shortage is because some bills haven’t been paid.

“I believe the situation is dangerous to our patients. Elective surgeries can be cancelled, but what if somebody needs an emergency operation and there isn’t a particular drug or piece of equipment available?”

Contacted by The Royal Gazette, health chiefs acknowledged that the concerns had been discussed at a meeting with Wesley Miller, the Bermuda Hospitals Board’s chief of staff.

A BHB spokeswoman also confirmed that the hospital had experienced “low supplies in specific items from time to time, mostly in speciality items”.

But the spokeswoman added that only two surgeries – both non-emergency – had had to be postponed in the past six month, and that supplies of stock items were healthy.

The spokeswoman said: “Following the issue being raised this week, it has been discussed internally. Procurement is reviewing mitigations, processes and supply arrangements for the speciality items, and the concerns have been put on the BHB risk register to ensure it is monitored.

“But there is no widespread shortage of BHB stock supplies. In fact, we currently have over 96 per cent of our inventory – stock items held in our central stores – for our medical surgical stock items.

“Even if supplies in stock items such as syringes and needles become low, we tend to be able to replace items quickly as there are more alternative vendors for these items.

“Non-stock, or speciality items, are not held in inventory and can take more work finding vendors and alternatives and longer to procure. A low supply of syringes of a specific size recently caused concerns in OR, but the order had already landed in Bermuda, supplies were replenished and patient care was not impacted.”

The spokeswoman confirmed that the Covid-19 pandemic had made supply chain issues “more prevalent“ and that delivery of supplies could also be affected by events such as Hurricane Ian, which hit Florida last month.

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Published October 31, 2022 at 7:52 am (Updated October 31, 2022 at 7:52 am)

Doctors warn of surgery crisis due to shortage of equipment

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