The Malta Independent 3 June 2020, Wednesday

Number of surgical emergencies, cancer operations will not go down due to virus - surgeons

Sunday, 22 March 2020, 21:16 Last update: about 3 months ago

The Association of Surgeons of Malta issued a statement to detail their role in the current virus situation on the island, pledging to perform all cancer procedures that are possible in a time of crisis.

In a statement, Mr Jo Etienne Abela, a consultant Surgeon at Mater Dei Hospital and Secretary of the Association of Surgeons of Malta (ASM) spoke of the work being done by surgeons.

"In his most recent message to fellows and members of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, the President, Professor S Michael Griffin OBE, eloquently speaks about the role of the surgeon in the current crisis. Despite being the worst human tragedy in three generations, the present calamity is not a war, he claims. In a time when anxiety, suspicion and selfishness seem to thrive, Professor Griffin is calling for kindness, compassion and care."

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The Association of Surgeons of Malta should be celebrating its 25th anniversary year this week. "A fortnight ago, with a heavy heart we had to cancel our organized events, the first surgical casualty of the pandemic in Malta, one might say. Our disappointment pales into insignificance, a mere trifle now that person-to-person viral cross-infection seems to be taking hold. One might question the role of the surgeon during a wave of viral infection causing pneumonia. One might rightly argue that this is the time for physicians and intensivists to shine, their finest hour as it were."

Whilst this is undoubtedly the case, Abela said, "it would be very wrong to think that surgeons will just watch from a safe distance twiddling their thumbs or sharpening their tools. We laud the efforts of the Ministry of Health and the indefatigable Public Health, Infection Control and Infectious Diseases departments to create the prevailing state of organization and preparedness. Only a few weeks ago, the world watched aghast as Wuhan put its back into it and built impressive hospitals in record times. The Maltese should be proud of the Mater Dei administration and the Department of Anaesthesia which in equally record times were able to create ITU units in forgotten places and filled every nook and cranny with top-quality beds. Our engineers and technicians are working non-stop to increase monitoring capacity and most importantly in this anti-viral crusade - oxygen supply points."

Undoubtedly, all these beds and monitors and oxygen points need plenty of nursing staff to look after our patients well, Abela added.

"Mr Paul Pace, President of the MUMN nursing union, cannot be more right. He has very correctly defined the nurses' crucial role in this 'battle' as frontline. The patients and the public at large are of course very much aware, that the front is comprised of nurses but also radiographers, physiotherapists, phlebotomists, nursing aides, porters, cleaners and of course doctors. In synergy, not independently, all of us strive to discharge patients home in good health. All of us do our very best to make a success of our job, we are all of us in this together, all frontline."

"All healthcare workers without exception deserve to be protected while doing our job, an inalienable human right enshrined in our Constitution. Lest we forget, two of the first Covid-19 casualties in the England were in fact ENT surgeons who contracted the disease on the job. Many more surgeons have suffered and may suffer a similar fate around the globe."

"Make no mistake, the number of surgical emergencies, cancer operations and patients requiring care in surgical wards will not go down in the prevailing viral storm. Although out-patient clinics and private practice have dwindled in order to curb contagion, surgeons are not taking leave. On the contrary, while still servicing the 'old' Emergency Department we have become pivotal in running a new Emergency unit helping our Accident and Emergency and General Medical colleagues to expedite admissions and discharges. Droves of us are training in ITU care in order to help our anaesthetic colleagues when duty calls. In the meantime, we have taken on managerial roles in theatre and endoscopy creating protocols while performing the same number of emergency procedures. We pledge to perform all cancer procedures that are possible in a time of crisis. We are committed to re-write the rulebook, to be steadfast and flexible. We do not shy away from extending the longest known hospital shifts in order to deliver the required service. Do not think of us as heroes, this is just our job."

"Under stress, we will strive to be kind, compassionate, caring...whilst working in a team."

 


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