PATIENTS needing emergency surgery in Portland will have to be transferred to Warrnambool after the city's only surgeon retired.The end of an era for general and orthopaedic surgeon Jesse Das after 26 years means Portland District Health is now without a surgeon until late August, increasing the number of emergency transfers to Warrnambool and Hamilton.The lack of a surgeon in Portland is also expected to increase the workload of local paramedics, forcing them to transport patients further for treatment.Mr Das' sudden retirement is a blow to Portland District Health whose administrators have worked hard to revive the ailing hospital since a lack of patient admissions were revealed a year ago. Chief executive officer John O'Neill said arrangements had been made with South West Healthcare in Warrnambool and Western District Health Service in Hamilton to refer patients needing surgery. ``Mr Das has been a surgeon and GP of long standing, so it's a blow to the hospital and community but equally, given his age and his service, it's not unexpected and we'll just have to get on with life,'' he said. Mr O'Neill said a surgeon from South Africa had accepted the position but he was waiting for the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons to approve the appointment, hopefully by late next month. South West Healthcare chief executive officer John Krygger said the Warrnambool hospital would ``endeavour to cover this void while the Portland hospital continues its search to secure a replacement surgeon''.Ambulance Victoria regional general manager Mick Cameron said the situation would be monitored in consultation with Portland District Health.``We are confident that the people of Portland will be safely served by our ambulance service.''