Patients are more than delighted to return to Aut Even Hospital to the outpatient setting to obtain a diagnosis of their condition and receive a treatment plan, according to Orthopaedic Consultant, Stuart Edwards.

This represents a significant shift in patient behaviour from the height of the first wave of Covid, when there much evidence to suggest that people were postponing medical treatment or check-ups, despite pleas to the contrary from the medical community. And of course, at that time too, patients attending private hospitals, no longer had the ability to continue their care within the private setting due to the implementation of the HSE’s surge capacity plan.

“The unfortunate thing for my patients was that their pain didn’t go away during that three-month lockdown.” Mr Edwards, who is primarily based at Aut Even Hospital Kilkenny, feels that even with additional restrictions now in place, there is a willingness from patients to stick to care plans and surgery arrangements, because they don’t want to be in a position where their pain is restrictive, alongside the lifestyle restrictions relating to national guidelines.

“Patients appear more appreciative of the care they are receiving now. They feel nothing should be taken for granted. There is a basic level of care that we all deserve and patients should not have to suffer in crippling pain or not be able to perform the simplest of activities of daily living.”

The surgeon is keen to offer reassurance to his patients and that of the hospital in general.

“Aut Even Hospital’s primary objective is to care for the patient in an extremely safe and COVID free environment. All staff and patients are screened on a daily basis; mask wearing is compulsory; all patients requiring an anaesthetic have a Covid 19 swab and are only admitted if negative.”

Being part of the process whereby a patient regains their mobility after a crucial hip replacement surgery, for example, is a hugely rewarding experience for the surgeon. Mr Edwards, has treated thousands of patients who had simply grown used to hobbling around and relying painkillers for their day to day relief. Seeking help from a doctor or a surgeon should not be viewed as ‘making a fuss’, he explains; “we are here to make your life better”.

Mr Edwards says that joint replacement procedures are considered quite a common procedure in this country, largely due to the fact that Ireland has a high incidence of arthritis. Hip replacements, for example, are becoming increasingly commonplace, not just amongst the retired age group but also amongst younger patients, who are more likely to seek medical advice and who may have had significantly more wear and tear to their joints due to sports.

“The age range for hip replacements in Ireland is wide. The youngest hip I have done is in a 3 year old patient and the eldest has been 91. It is more common for those aged between 60 to 85.”

Still, despite the commonality of the procedure, replacing a joint seems like a massive undertaking and a complex operation, from a patient perspective. However, the surgeon explains that, generally having a hip replacement is not associated with a lot of pain. And any pain that does exist is very well managed. From a recovery perspective too, patients are much less inconvenienced than in previous times. Typically, the patient is in hospital for about three days and on two crutches for three or four weeks, a single crutch for three or four weeks, and then by three months you should be walking a mile with ease. Most patients start driving at approximately 6-8 weeks and from 3 months onwards you can look at getting back to golf, gentle exercise etc.

People struggling to put on their shoes and socks; those in pain on a daily basis; people who have disturbed sleep due to pain; those struggling to walk a mile pain free or people who have to take painkillers on a daily basis should seek advice, from a GP, a physiotherapist or a surgeon.  

The advice that Mr Edwards offers to people who are struggling to walk because of knee or hip issues is simple.

On a personal level, Mr Edwards admits that it has been amazing to get his practice back up and running in recent months. Living through the Covid crisis has been difficult for everyone, “but, the prospect of treating patients in the coming weeks and knowing that they will be much more comfortable and mobile this Christmas is a great feeling”, asserts Mr Edwards.