ROUTINE orthopaedic operations are set to resume at the Royal Gwent Hospital this week after being suspended during January.

The suspension came as part of plans to deal with winter pressures, with an orthopaedic ward at the hospital used during that period as a ward for general non-orthopaedic urgent surgery.

All urgent (trauma) orthopaedic surgery continued at the Royal Gwent and routine, or elective, orthpopaedic surgery continued during January at Nevill Hall and St Woolos Hospitals and at Ysbyty Ystrad Fawr. Day surgery facilities across Gwent were also used for some cases.

As well as suspending routine orthopaedics at the Royal Gwent, extra beds have been opened as winter has proceeded, to try to ensure minimum disruption to elective surgery across all specialities. These proved particularly valuable during the first weekend of this month when there was “significant high demand for more serious acute medical emergencies” according to an Aneurin Bevan Health Board spokesman.

Short-notice cancelled operations have topped 100 (104) during January, due to emergency pressures, a cancellation rate of just over two per cent.

But the suspension of routine orthopaedic surgery at the Royal Gwent was criticised by one patient from north Gwent, who did not want to be named, and who was referred to a specialist in May 2012 with a back problem.

She requires surgery to treat a condition that has prevented her from returning to work, and had been redirected to the Royal Gwent from Nevill Hall last summer.

She told the Argus that she had been informed early in December that she would be treated within four weeks, but is still waiting.

“It’s ridiculous and I’m worried I’m going to lose my job because I’ve not been able to work for so long,” she said.

The health board spokesman said decisions to postpone surgery “are never taken lightly.”

“We would wish to sincerely apologise to any patient that has had their surgery postponed. We recognise that it is distressing for the patient and their family,” he said.

“Our staff are now working hard to reschedule operations so that patients have their surgery as soon as possible.

“Every effort is being made to drive down waiting times in all specialities, and whilst emergency pressures will have an impact, the planning that was carried out during the months prior to Christmas has put us in a much better position.”