Operations postponed due to flu

SIX operations had to be postponed by a hospital trust because its critical care units were too busy with flu patients.

North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust postponed three operations this week and three last week due to a lack of availability of critical care beds at its hospitals in Hartlepool and Stockton.

The trust has been inundated with patients suffering from the effects of the weather and made the decisions in line with its winter planning procedures.

Every year the trust develops a plan for how it will deal with an increase in cases, including people with flu and other seasonal ailments, to make sure they can deal with all possibilities that could arise.

Bosses last week postponed three procedures so a day unit could be temporarily used to house critical care patients.

And this week three operations were postponed because it was thought the patients could need a critical care bed and that would stretch facilities even further.

Under the trust's planning procedures bosses assess daily the number of patients being treated and the capacity that is available to decide whether any further measures need to be taken.

A spokeswoman for the trust, which runs the University Hospital of Hartlepool and the University Hospital of North Tees, Stockton, said none of the postponed operations were life-critical and they are hoped to be rescheduled within the next 28 days.

She told the Mail: "The critical care units are busy because of illnesses brought on by the winter weather and if the units are busy we don't do operations where patients could need critical care.

"The reason we postponed three day case procedures was to use the unit as a temporary ward and we did that for a couple of hours.

"We have really well tested out procedures that are monitored all the time to make sure that we can look after anyone who needs care."

The Mail reported last week how John Walsh, 21, died at the University Hospital of Hartlepool after suffering from swine flu.

Mr Walsh had been admitted to the University Hospital of North Tees on Christmas Day and was transferred to the Hartlepool hospital where he died the following day after suffering from the H1N1 flu virus.