Can­celled surg­eries leave man in her­nia hell

The last time he ac­tu­ally got right to the op­er­at­ing room — to no avail

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - JOANNA FR­KETICH jfr­ketich@thes­ 905-526-3349 | @Jfr­ketich

Ray Ryan’s surgery to fix a her­nia al­most the size of a bas­ket­ball has been can­celled three times.

Twice there were no in­ten­sive­care-unit beds at Hamil­ton Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal and once a more ur­gent pa­tient took pri­or­ity, said Ryan, a 60-year-old east-end res­i­dent.

The last time, Ryan said, he got right to the op­er­at­ing room be­fore the her­nia re­pair was called off.

“It’s get­ting worse,” he said about the her­nia, which grows ev­ery week.

“It’s very painful. It’s hard to get around be­cause it’s like a bas­ket­ball. You can’t lift any­thing or bend over.”

Can­celled surg­eries are a sign of over­crowded hos­pi­tals. This flu sea­son has been par­tic­u­larly bad with adult med­i­cal units run­ning at 120 per cent ca­pac­ity across the city.

St. Joseph’s Health­care and Hamil­ton Health Sciences to­gether have been open­ing 65 to 89 ex­tra beds a day at their acute care hos­pi­tals.

Mak­ing the sit­u­a­tion worse — al­most one in four beds is blocked by pa­tients who no longer need to be in hos­pi­tal at St. Joseph’s.

Close to one in five beds at HHS is oc­cu­pied by those stuck wait­ing for other ser­vices such as longterm care, home care or re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.

So far, St. Joseph’s hasn’t can­celled any surg­eries be­cause of a lack of beds.

But HHS has had to post­pone nine pro­ce­dures since April be­cause it didn’t have a bed for the pa­tient.

“For a re­ally small num­ber of pa­tients, we de­fer pro­ce­dures be­cause the ap­pro­pri­ate bed is not avail­able,” said Brenda Fla­herty, ex­ec­u­tive vice-pres­i­dent of clin­i­cal op­er­a­tions and chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer at HHS.

“We re­gret it ev­ery time. We know how dif­fi­cult it is for pa­tients and fam­i­lies … We do ev­ery­thing we pos­si­bly can not to do it.”

For Ryan, the can­celled surg­eries are made more dif­fi­cult be­cause he has to go off his arthri­tis med­i­ca­tion for two weeks be­fore the pro­ce­dure.

It’s a pain he’s now had to en­dure three times.

He also has to go off a blood thin­ner for five days be­fore the surgery.

“You do a lot to pre­pare for it,” said Ryan, who was a fork­lift op­er­a­tor be­fore ill­ness left him un­able to work. “It’s dis­ap­point­ing.” Ryan first de­vel­oped a her­nia in 2015, which was quickly re­moved.

But the weak­ness in the mus­cles of the ab­domen, which al­lows part of the bowel to push through, caus­ing a lump un­der the skin, re­turned in April.

“It came back ten­fold,” said Ryan. “The her­nia was get­ting big­ger and big­ger.”

He quickly got in to see the sur­geon that same month.

Tests were done and a non-sur­gi­cal treat­ment tried but by the fall it was clear he needed surgery again. It was sched­uled for Oct. 17. Ryan was at Hamil­ton Gen­eral at 6 a.m. but af­ter five and a half hours of wait­ing, he said, he was told there were no ICU beds.

While some pa­tients can go home the same day of a her­nia re­pair, Ryan has other health prob­lems in­clud­ing chronic ob­struc­tive pul­monary dis­ease and heart is­sues, so he needs an ICU bed.

The surgery was resched­uled for Dec. 12.

How­ever, Ryan said he got a call Dec. 6 in­form­ing him the surgery would have to be post­poned again be­cause of a more ur­gent case.

The next date was Jan. 17 and this time Ryan said he made it all the way to the op­er­at­ing room be­fore he was told there was no ICU bed.

“Some­thing has to be done about all the hos­pi­tal cut­backs,” he said.

Ryan hopes Feb. 8 will fi­nally be the day his her­nia is re­paired — nearly four months af­ter the date of his orig­i­nal surgery.


Ray Ryan has felt the im­pact of hos­pi­tal over­crowd­ing first­hand: His surgery to re­pair a her­nia al­most the size of a bas­ket­ball has now been can­celled three times.

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