More than 350 operations cancelled amid winter pressures
ALMOST 360 hospital operations were cancelled across Northern Ireland in just over a month due to winter pressures.
New figures show that the biggest number of postponed 'routine' surgeries were in the Southern health trust, which is responsible for Craigavon Area Hospital and Daisy Hill in Newry.
The information released by the north's five health trusts relates to the period between the beginning of last December and the start of this month, when A&E departments experienced a severe spike in demand.
A total of 357 procedures were put back, including scores of orthopaedic surgeries such as hip and knee replacements, with more than 220 suspensions in the Southern trust alone, according to the BBC's Nolan Show.
In some cases, patients who had been on the waiting list for two to three years had their operations cancelled for a second time.
It comes during one of the worst winter crises in the NHS, with a surge in the number of frail elderly people attending A&E units.
The Irish News revealed earlier this month that one patient had to endure a 49-hour delay in a casualty department over the festive period, one of the worst figures in the entire health service.
A massive shortage in the nursing workforce is being linked to the problem, with Northern Ireland now having 1,500 permanent posts unfilled.
Such was the scale of trolley waits in the Northern trust that management took the unprecedented step of drafting in St John Ambulance volunteers to carry out basic nursing duties in Antrim Area Hospital on New Year's Eve.