Cancelled surgeries leave man in hernia hell
The last time he actually got right to the operating room — to no avail
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.