Children with scoliosis facing three-year delay to see health specialist
Children with scoliosis requiring an outpatient appointment to see an orthopaedic surgeon are waiting up to three years in some cases.
The crisis in outpatient waiting lists comes as it emerged that another 88 children, who have been deemed in need of surgery for the severe spinal condition, are facing delays of more than four months.
Health Minister Simon Harris promised last year that no child who was ready for surgery would have to wait longer than four months.
The issue was raised in the Dáil yesterday by Sinn Féin TD Louise O'Reilly, who accused the Government of reneging on its pledge to these children whose condition is deteriorating.
"Some children have been waiting for more than three years," she said.
Mr Harris insisted progress was being made and said that the surgical waiting list had reduced from 182 last September.
However, Scolionetwork, a support group for parents with children with scoliosis, has warned that many children are enduring delays of two to three years before even seeing a consultant and before going on another list for surgery.
A spokeswoman for the Children's Hospital Group, covering the three children's hospitals in Dublin, said that an additional €9m had been provided to paediatric orthopaedics including scoliosis services in 2018.
The increased investment will be used for improvements including the recruitment of additional staff, including orthopaedic consultants, who will be primarily based in Our Lady's Children's Hospital Crumlin and Temple Street Children's University Hospital.
It is also being used to increase orthopaedic theatre capacity at Crumlin and Cappagh hospitals and transition adolescent scoliosis patients to the adult spinal services in the Mater Hospital.
A new action plan to tackle scoliosis waiting lists is due next month.
"Our focus for 2018 is on reducing the backlog and the unacceptable waiting times for children and young people and ensuring that those patients who require surgery, receive it," she said.
"Recruitment for paediatric orthopaedic surgeons are being processed."
She said there was "significant" work being undertaken to decrease the waiting times for first-time outpatient orthopaedic appointments.
Figures supplied by the group show that 42 children are waiting for scoliosis surgery in Crumlin and 16 in Temple Street.
Another 21 are on the waiting list at Cappagh Hospital.
There are another 79 children on waiting lists in the three hospitals for other spinal procedures, including some 55 in Crumlin.
The figures showed that 72 children with scoliosis have been operated on this year and 118 other spinal procedures have been carried out.
Children with scoliosis can be in extreme pain and, as it deteriorates, it can put pressure on internal organs.
If left untreated, severe cases of scoliosis can shorten a person's life span.
Hospitals here have struggled to recruit enough staff, forcing children to go abroad to the UK and Germany in many cases.