Wednesday 20 June 2018

'He asks why he can't have the operation but I can't answer that' - Mum of boy on waiting list for scoliosis surgery

A four-month waiting period for the treatment of children with scoliosis promised by the end of 2017 will not be met. Stock photo
A four-month waiting period for the treatment of children with scoliosis promised by the end of 2017 will not be met. Stock photo

Kathy Armstrong

A distraught mother has said she doesn't know what to say when her son asks why he can't have life-changing scoliosis surgery.

Patricia Flynn was speaking this morning after it was revealed that over 100 children are still waiting for the procedure for scoliosis, which causes a curve in the spine and can be extremely painful.

This is despite former Taoiseach Enda Kenny previously pledging that no child would have to wait longer than four months for the operation.

Patricia's son Ian (15) was born with Spina Bifida, he later developed Scoliosis and has been waiting over a year for surgery.

Patricia, who is from Fermoy in Co Cork, has spoken about how upsetting it is to watch her son's condition deteriorate.

Speaking on Morning Ireland on RTE Radio One, she said: "Ian has worsened over the summer.

"He is twisting in his wheelchair, his upper curve is now 68, which had been 40 the year before; his lower curve in now 78, which was 62 the year before.

"So his scoliosis has progressed enormously in the year.

"Initially we were told his surgery would be summer or early autumn.

"I've made contact with his surgeons on numerous occasions and I've just been told, 'Oh we're aware of Ian's urgency but we have no date for the surgery yet'."

She continued to say: "He is complaining about pain and as the mother of a child with special needs you would do anything for that child.

"It is heartbreaking to see him in pain, he has to wear a big body brace every night going to sleep, I have to apply it for him.

"His posture has completely changed, his back is humping at his ribs, he has dropped his shoulders and his whole body has completely changed."

She said that she just wants her son to have the procedure he needs.

Patricia said: "It's very frustrating that I can't get what he needs.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

"He will say to me, 'Mum, why can't we get the operation done?' But I can't give him an answer on that.

"To see him in pain is just heartbreaking to watch."

The issue of scoliosis waiting lists was raised in the Dail on Tuesday by Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar claimed that the funding has been put in place and he hopes to see the four month maximum waiting list achieved.

He said: "The government has a scoliosis action plan in place, I know when I was Minister for Health I met with the surgeons who perform these operations and some of the interest groups as well.

"One of their big asks was that a new theatre be provided at Crumlin Hospital, that cost around €2 million and that theatre is now there and open.

"It is also the case that quite a number of these cases are being outsourced to other hospitals, Blackrock for example or other options as the number of surgeries has increased, which is a good sign as more people are getting the procedure.

"It is still the case that some people are waiting a very long time, the four month target was set by the Director General of the Health Service and the HSE is funded to meet that target.

"I'm certainly calling on the them to meet that target."

Read More: Children offered scoliosis surgery in Germany

Michelle Long, spokeswoman and co-founder the Scoliosis Advocacy Network, said that she is doubtful that the target can be achieved unless the Crumlin operating theatre is open more.

She said: "It won't be possible to meet this commitment unless the theatre in Crumlin is moved from five days a week to three days a week.

"It opened one day a week in April, two days a week in July and three days a week recently.

"We have five spinal surgeons in Crumlin with three theatre days.

"I can't answer why it's like that, it's the management of Crumlin who have decided to open it for three days per week, we have been asking and asking but it seems like outsourcing is the performed method." has contact the HSE for a comment.

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