Non-urgent procedures have had to be rescheduled due to staff shortages, and medics were put on alert last week that private operations may have to be suspended if problems continue, Express has learned.
Operating theatres were already operating under a ‘mitigation plan’, but the service lead told hospital workers last week that the staffing situation had become so challenging as a result of “sickness” that middle-grade (non-consultant) operations would have to be suspended.
Operations are now being based on “clinical priority” – i.e. based on the level of urgency – and schedules for the next four weeks are being redrawn.
Some senior staff reacted furiously, with one arguing in an email chain seen by Express that the Health service should be honest about its staffing “crisis” and that politicians should be working harder to find solutions.
An internal report produced in June – which was leaked to Express last month – linked surgical staff shortages to unresolved bullying cases, revealing that some operating theatre colleagues were unable to even work in the same room as each other.
The report also highlighted that operating theatres had the highest number of staff on long-term sickness, primarily stress-related.
Pictured: "Some of the staff relationships have broken down so irreparably that the staff concerned can now not be allocated to work in the same theatre," the report read.
Weeks later in July, it was announced that non-urgent operations at the hospital would be suspended due to non-covid staff illness.
While elective surgeries resumed on 1 September, the service is under pressure little over a month later.
If the latest mitigation measures don’t work, staff were told last week that public operations will take precedence “and private listing could be suspended.”
It comes as the hospital has also been struggling at near-to-full capacity, with medics describing availability as “very poor” and “extremely challenging”. Patients have had to be moved around and rapid discharges have been encouraged as a result.
The Government did not respond to questions from Express on how many operations had had to be rescheduled as a result of the surgery pressures, nor did it provide an answer on the hospital’s current bed capacity.
A Health spokesperson said in a statement: “Managing staff sickness along with emergency and planned demand is a challenge for any healthcare system and it is something Health and Community Services faces every day.
"The Hospital has encountered increased bed demand over the past few weeks, however, season activity pressures are well understood and the Hospital and wider healthcare services are working hard to address capacity pressures when they occur.
“There is no planned suspension of any categories of activity at this time and staff continue to ensure there is daily prioritisation according to need and workforce alignment.”
Speaking on the Bailiwick Podcast earlier this week, Group Managing Director Rob Sainsbury described many of the bullying and morale issues at the heart of staff absences as “historic”.
He said that the Department was working hard to improve the culture of the organisation through team-building activities and initiatives such as Wellbeing Week, which started on Monday.
Happy #WorldMentalHealthDay! Today we launch our first HCS Wellbeing Week! There are 68 FREE + EXCLUSIVE events + activities taking place all week for HCS colleagues. From free ice cream to massage + mental wellbeing - there’s something for everyone #HCSWellbeing @GovJsyHCS pic.twitter.com/aqqHlG2y8T— Hannah Maden (@Not_JustAFace) October 10, 2021
It will see staff engaging in activities and events ranging from yoga to massage.
He also said work was underway to tackle recruitment problems by ensuring that Jersey's hospital can offer an appealing package.
Reports detailing serious bullying allegations, staff shortages, buildings which are no longer fit for purpose, and a new hospital which is still, at least, five years away.
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