Babies with heart problems wait years to see specialist
BABIES with potential heart problems are facing a two-year wait to see a hospital specialist.
The revelation comes just a week after Health Minister James Reilly said no one should be left waiting longer than 12 months for an outpatient appointment to see a specialist.
And Dr Reilly told anyone left waiting for more than a year to contact the Health Services Executive.
A letter seen by the Irish Independent that was sent to concerned parents of a young baby seeking an appointment with a cardiology consultant at Temple Street Children's University Hospital informed them that the waiting time for an appointment was two years.
"We will contact you when an appointment date becomes available," the letter stated after their GP referred the baby to Temple Street with a suspected heart murmur.
"In the meantime if you have any concerns about your child's condition please discuss with your GP."
Temple Street confirmed 367 children were waiting in excess of 12 months for a new cardiology outpatient appointment at the end of last year.
It blamed the lengthy wait on a deficit in the capacity of the paediatric cardiology services throughout the country.
However, the parents were able to see a specialist in five weeks if they opted to go private.
The letter from the hospital goes on to urge the parents that if "for any reason" they no longer require an appointment in the future then they should inform the hospital.
"If we are given enough notice we can offer your cancelled appointment to another child on our waiting list," it states.
The mother explained her daughter was diagnosed with a heart murmur at her six-week check-up with the GP.
"She reassured me that this can be quite common in newborns but referred us to Temple Street as a precaution and said it could be a few months before we get an appointment," the mother said.
"I couldn't believe it when we got a letter from the hospital saying there was a two-year waiting list. For something potentially serious, this seems like too long to wait.
"We have decided to go private and she will only have to wait five weeks.
"Our health insurance covers this, but you would feel for parents who don't have insurance or who can't afford the cost of going private."
The Department of Health said waiting lists are a matter for the HSE's Special Delivery Unit.
Temple Street said it understands two additional cardiology consultant posts to be based out of Our Lady's Children's Hospital Crumlin will be in place shortly.
It confirmed the HSE had funded a cardiology outpatient initiative on Saturdays between Our Lady's and Temple Street to reduce waiting lists.
And, it pointed out it had met the 12 -month target by the end of 2013 in all other specialities.
The HSE confirmed patients are "prioritised on both clinical need and wait time".
Dr Reilly recently said there had been a 95pc reduction in the number of people waiting over 12 months for an outpatient appointment, with 34 out of 42 hospitals meeting the national target.
Statistics for the end of 2013 show the number of people waiting over 12 months dropped to 4,626 in December – down from 103,433 in March 2013.
During 2013, 102,780 additional patient appointments were provided, a 4pc increase compared with 2012.