Tuesday 23 October 2018

Number of children waiting to see specialist for more than 18 months hits record high

Record 10,295 children now forced to endure 18-month wait for

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

The number of children enduring a wait of more than a year-and-a-half to see a specialist has breached 10,000 for the first time.

The latest shock figures reveal 10,295 children are facing delays of more than 18 months, a 12-fold increase in only two years.

Fianna Fáil spokeswoman on children Anne Rabbitte TD warned she was particularly concerned about the rapid increase in waiting lists in the three children's hospitals in Dublin in particular.

Children who lose out on a timely specialist analysis of their condition risk being damaged for life.

She said: "The three children's hospitals in Dublin account for about 80pc of the total number of children on the waiting list, but they also make up almost 99pc of the children waiting more than 18 months for an appointment."

Temple Street Hospital has suffered a 16-fold increase in the number of children waiting over a year-and-a-half to see a doctor since 2016. And the deterioration in Our Lady's Hospital, Crumlin, is almost as bad.

Overall, 54,308 children are now languishing in a queue to get a specialist appointment for a range of conditions including cardiac and orthopaedic care.

Although almost half the year has passed, a long-promised plan from Health Minister Simon Harris setting out how outpatient waiting lists could be managed has failed to materialise.

Outside Dublin, all hospitals have children waiting.

There are 1,366 in Galway University Hospital, 1,100 on an outpatient list in Our Lady's Hospital in Drogheda and more than 1,000 in Cork University Hospital.

Among those losing out are children who have spinal scoliosis. It has now emerged the scoliosis plan will not be available until nearly next month.

ScolioNetwork, which represents families affected by the condition, has been unable to secure a meeting to see Mr Harris for months.

The crisis in access to care for children comes amid alarm over the record 707,000 now on some form of waiting list.

Mr Harris, who has seen the waiting list crisis escalate during his tenure, said a number of steps are being taken to ensure the lists are accurate.

However, although hundreds of patients are being written to and asked if they still want to see a specialist, the numbers continue to climb.

He claimed the HSE is working with the National Treatment Purchase Fund and the Department to finalise an action plan for 2018.

However, vital time has already been lost this year although the Government allocated €55m towards tackling waiting lists by outsourcing the spare capacity in public hospitals.

Doctors warn delays are putting patients at risk of ending up with delayed diagnosis and many desperate patients are having to go to A&E departments.

Irish Independent

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