Medics at Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary and Galloway Community Hospital have had to cancel numerous surgeries at short notice, health chiefs have admitted.
The problem is being exacerbated by extremely busy A&E departments and GPs are also “incredibly busy”.
At this month’s NHS Dumfries and Galloway board meeting, chief executive Jeff Ace said: “The system at the moment is very hot. It has been for a number of weeks – and there’s no immediate let-up to that on the horizon.
“This has caused the cancellation of some elective work, and that’s really tough for people.
“Remember people may already have experienced much longer waits than would be the normal case in a non-pandemic scenario. For us to then short-notice cancel those individuals is very tough.
“But simply in bed capacity and staffing terms, we have no option to do otherwise.
“We’ll obviously keep those cancellations to a minimum, but again it is quite likely that we will see repeated short notice cancellations due to the level of occupancy we have at the moment.”
The chief executive also confirmed that, as of last week, there were 45 delayed discharges within Dumfries and Galloway healthcare facilities – and that the number has been even higher this summer.
“We’re in constant communication with council colleagues to look at pathways out of the hospital, particularly for those individuals who require social care packages,” said Mr Ace.
“While we’re making decent progress there, the number of delays in the system at the moment is consistently higher than we would like.
“That’s clearly one of our key action areas to try and take a bit of heat out of the system.
“I would just emphasise that our staff are under a lot of pressure at the moment. This does feel more like a January/February sort of situation in terms of occupancy and pressure than a middle of July picture.
“So, it’s pretty tough out there at the moment.”
A spokesman for NHS Dumfries and Galloway said that most of the cancelled operations were within orthopaedics.
He added: “We are approaching clinical prioritisation using the national criteria similar to other boards, so we are still treating all urgent, emergency and trauma patients.
“We are working in the hopes of resuming electives in early August, but there are still a number of factors which could either hinder or help this progress.”