119 children left in agony as scoliosis waiting list grows
The number of children with scoliosis waiting more than six months for treatment has now risen to 119, newly released figures reveal.
Of these, some 46 children who suffer from the condition causing a twisting of the spine are on the list for more than a year, including 13 who have been waiting 18 months.
Treatments of scoliosis in children can involve observation, back bracing where they are still growing, or surgery.
There are another 117 children on the scoliosis waiting lists for up to six months, according to Helen Byrne, the HSE's assistant national director for planning and performance.
The young patients are in the queue in the three children's hospitals including Crumlin, Temple Street and Tallaght. The longest lists are in Crumlin, where 44 have been on the list for more than a year.
The extent of the waiting list, which has emerged in a parliamentary response to Fianna Fáil TD Sean Fleming, comes in the wake of emotional testimonies in the 'RTÉ Investigates' programme on waiting lists by children whose surgery is delayed, leaving them to suffer as their condition deteriorates.
Health Minister Simon Harris said the Department of Health has been working closely with the HSE to address services pressures, particularly in Our Lady's Children's Hospital Crumlin, which is the largest provider of scoliosis surgery for young people.
Additional funding has been provided in recent years to develop the paediatric orthopaedic services.
Mr Harris said that some €2m was made available under the Winter Initiative Funding in 2016 and more than 50 additional patients have been treated to date as a result.
"I recently met with the CEO of the Children's Hospital Group and of Our Lady's Children's Hospital Crumlin (OLCHC) to discuss immediate action that can be taken to reduce waiting times for children and adolescents with scoliosis," he said.
"While the new theatre in OLCHC was commissioned in 2016, it is only now being used for scoliosis surgery due to challenges with recruiting nurses."
Mr Harris said that four new nurses will be in place by April and a further 16 international nurses have been offered posts, and have begun the registration process.
"I am advised by OLCHC that an orthopaedic surgeon post in the hospital will also be filled by June. This means that from July, the hospital expects that the theatre use will be further increased," he said.