Minister can't say if children's operating theatres back in use
Health Minister James Reilly was last night unable to say if the three main children's hospitals had increased the use of operating theatres, one week after a damning report revealed how they were being mismanaged.
A spokesman for the minister said he had received an analysis of how the hospitals were now managing theatres but was unable to say if hundreds of children are still on waiting lists for surgery.
The report, published last week, showed how Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin and Temple Street were each underusing theatres by 28pc, and Tallaght Hospital by 17pc.
The hospitals later blamed the influx of young patients with swine flu for the problem -- despite the independent consultants Meridian saying they had allowed for this disruption in their analysis.
The report said it was not unusual for sessions to start late or early, or finish late or early, despite hundreds of children on waiting lists, some for up to two years. Crumlin hospital, which has seen the numbers of children waiting for more than a year for surgery double in the past year, was unable to say what percentage its theatre usage is currently at.
A spokesperson for Temple St hospital said it has risen to 93pc but needed more time to say what this meant in practical terms for the numbers of patients treated.
The minister yesterday asked the board of the Health Service Executive to step down, replacing the independent nominees with his own officials and HSE staff instead.
But when quizzed on what was happening in the children's hospitals he remained vague, saying it was it was not an issue of money and more resources -- it was about better management and more coherence.
"And, of course, I'm alluding to last week's report on the children's hospitals. I didn't welcome the fact that the report showed children were waiting.
"That's an appalling situation. But what I would welcome is the fact that the cure for that is there before us, it's outlined. It's better management, better co-ordination of services. And we're capable of that.
"We have some of the best managers and best clinicians in the world. We just need to get them aligned in a coherent, cohesive system. And they will deliver, I am convinced of it."
A spokesman for Dr Reilly said he had asked officials in the Department of Health to "distill" down the contents of the Meridian report -- and get an update from the hospitals which had claimed that parts of the report were out of date.
He said this analysis had now been given to the minister but could not say what level of improvement had been made and what it had meant to patient care.
The report found that none of the hospitals had an emergency theatre in late 2009 when the consultants did their analysis.
Dr Reilly has not yet appointed a review group to examine the costing for the proposed national children's hospital although the delay is costing up to €650,000 a month.
It is planned to close the existing three hospitals and amalgamate them in the new national hospital, which is due to open in 2014, but not a brick has yet been laid.