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Meet some of the people who are continuing to provide urgent cancer and emergency care during COVID-19

As part of the response to the outbreak of COVID-19 Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board is prioritising those patients across North Wales who are in need of the most urgent care, such as those who need cancer treatment.

Clinicians and theatre staff are working hard across the Health Board to ensure they can still provide treatment to those who need it the most.

Mr Palanichamy Chandran, a Consultant General and Colorectal Surgeon who has worked at Wrexham Maelor Hospital for 15 years, says a huge amount of planning has gone into ensuring his patients still receive the treatment they need.

He said: “With elective surgery currently cancelled we are focusing solely on our patients who are in need of urgent cancer treatment.

“I’m really pleased to say that we have continued to provide these operations for our patients so far, and are taking every precaution to ensure our patients are safe during their stay in hospital.

“We understand it’s an anxious time for our patients who are now coming in for their surgery without their families support due to the visiting restrictions in place.

“As a team we will ensure all our patients receive the support and care they need during their time with us.”

Mrs Mandana Pennick, a Consultant Breast Surgeon at Glan Clwyd Hospital is continuing to provide a Rapid Access and Diagnostic Breast Clinic for people to undergo tests to decide whether a breast lump or abnormality is benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancerous), as well as performing cancer surgery.

She said: “We have continued to provide the clinic for our patients twice a week to ensure we are still seeing those who may need urgent treatment after a diagnosis of breast cancer.

“We are also utilising our virtual breast clinic which was set up last year where our patients, who may be concerned with their wound for example, can send through a photo securely to a dedicated email address which we can then assess.

“Myself, and many of the staff in the clinic and surgical teams have undergone re-training so we are ready to step up to help our colleagues on Intensive Care if the need arises, but in the meantime we are continuing to provide urgent care to those patients who need it most.

“All our patients are discussed in our Multi-Disciplinary Team meetings where we assess what the right treatment is for them at this time.

“We always carry out a risk assessment and those people who need an operation will receive it and others may be managed with medication, no one will be forgotten.”

Consultant Gynaecological Surgeons Mr Richard Peevor and Miss Rosalind Jones at Ysbyty Gwynedd say all gynae cancer patients have received their operations during the pandemic.

Mr Peevor said: “We have been working hard to ensure we can provide an efficient gynae cancer service across North Wales during this unprecedented time.

“The way we carry out our clinics have changed, we are now providing a lot more telephone consultations to reduce the need for our patients to come into hospital.

“Our theatre team has also been working hard to ensure we can provide operations in a safe environment and all adequate PPE is provided.”

However, Miss Jones says she is concerned after the number of referrals for post-menopausal bleeding has reduced since the start of the pandemic.

She said: “I am worried there are some women at home with symptoms of post-menopausal bleeding and not going to see their GP.

“We have seen a drop in the number of referrals for this condition so I would urge anyone who has these symptoms to contact their GP as soon as possible.”

As well as cancer surgery our Trauma teams across North Wales are still treating patients who attend hospital in need of emergency treatment, such as a broken hip.

Mr Ibrahim Malek, a Consultant Orthopaedic and Trauma Surgeon at Wrexham Maelor Hospital, said: “During the lockdown period falls and injuries at home, especially in the elderly, are continuing and we have also seen a slight increase in DIY related injuries.

“Emergency trauma is still being provided as normal. We have a dedicated team led by specialist consultants available seven days a week now to provide the best treatment without any delay.

“Our trauma patients are being seen quicker due to us working in a different way and our theatre teams are working hard to ensure our patients continue to receive the best treatment possible.

“This pandemic has brought many changes but it hasn’t and will not change our duty to provide the best treatment possible for our patients in any circumstances.”

Mr Oliver Blocker, Consultant Orthopaedic and Trauma Surgeon, who joined Ysbyty Gwynedd at the beginning of March, added: “We always keep patient safety at the forefront of our minds, especially during these times.

“We continue to provide an emergency service for our patients but I would urge the public to stay safe, and to take extra care when carrying out any DIY at home.

“We are taking all the extra precautions necessary to ensure we can provide a safe environment for our patients, and we still have our own dedicated trauma theatre which is operational seven days a week.

“Even though our elective surgery has been temporarily postponed we are still receiving referrals from GPs and those patients who are identified as an emergency will be contacted and will receive the treatment they need.”