Twelve jobs created as private clinic invests £3m in heart surgery

The new cardiac surgery unit at Kingsbridge. Picture: Brian Morrison
The new cardiac surgery unit at Kingsbridge. Picture: Brian Morrison The new cardiac surgery unit at Kingsbridge. Picture: Brian Morrison

TWELVE jobs have been created as the north gets its first private cardiac surgery service and ICU after a £3 million investment from health clinic Kingsbridge.

The investment includes an operating theatre and ICU as well specialist cardiac equipment.

The unit has already treated its first seven patients who underwent major life saving cardiac surgery as well as other specialist surgeries at Kingsbridge’s flagship hospital in Belfast.

The ICU has been named the ‘Jim Dornan ICU,’ after Professor Jim Dornan, one of the founding consultants at Kingsbridge, who passed away last year.

The cardiac service will initially include treatment of the five most common cardiac surgeries performed. These include cardiac bypass surgery for blockage of arteries, mitral and aortic valve repair and replacement surgery and atrial septal defect closure in adults.

As the service is more established, more complex procedures will be added.

The first patient to use the service was Brendan Doyle, who had lifesaving mitral valve repair surgery in January after waiting since 2016 for the procedure.

Kingsbridge Hospital Group co-founder Dr Suresh Tharma said: “We know how much pressure there is on cardiac surgery delivery in Northern Ireland, and until now patients like Brendan have had to travel to Dublin or Great Britain to have life-saving surgery.

“It is hopeful that the cardiac surgery service in Kingsbridge will assist the NHS in providing a solution much closer to home, which would benefit the patients and their respective families.”

Ashok Songra, another co-founder, said the service will be “game changer” for patients in the north, and was already being accessed by patients here, in the south and in GB.

“Aside from the obvious logistical and convenience factors, retaining the intellectual surgical skill sets and funding within Northern Ireland will have far-reaching long-term benefits,” he said.

According to the Department of Health inpatient waiting times dataset of last December, 369 patients in Northern Ireland were on the waiting list for cardiac surgery, with around 107 waiting for more than six months.

This is despite approximately 200 people a year being transferred to private hospitals in the south of Ireland to facilitate timely emergency surgery.

The cardiac surgery service’s first patient Brendan Doyle (47) from Ballymena said: “It really has been life changing for us as a family. I feel like a new man and cannot wait to go on holiday with my wife and two young children this summer, as well as get back to work as soon as I receive the go ahead from my clinicians.”

Kingsbridge is the only healthcare group in Ireland to have hospitals in both the north of Ireland (Belfast and Ballykelly) and the south (Sligo).

It has plans to expand further over the coming year and hopes to deliver a series of programmes of care to afford patients rapid access to diagnosis and treatment for a range of common illnesses.