A MOTHER has said she is at "breaking point" after her daughter's heart operation was cancelled for the second time in 12 months.
Deirdre Fitzgibbon from Ballyphehane, Co Cork, has told how her three-year-old daughter Emily, who has Down Syndrome, has been unable to walk as a result of a hole in her heart.
As a result of her heart problems, her development has been halted.
Emily has been on a waiting list for surgery at Our Lady's Children's Hospital in Crumlin for the past 12 months for a procedure to close up the hole in her heart.
However, a date for the procedure in March of this year was cancelled 10 days beforehand due to the unavailability of a consultant.
And on Wednesday Deirdre received news that a second date for the procedure -- set for May 9 -- had also been cancelled. She is now waiting for a third date.
"It is so heartbreaking. You build yourself up, you prepare yourself for the fact that your daughter is having open-heart surgery which is absolutely terrifying, and then you are told at the last minute it is not happening," she said.
The mother of one says she was "incensed" by revelations that the number of children waiting more than a year for treatment at Crumlin Hospital had doubled over the past year, despite service improvements the hospital says have taken place following a productivity review carried out in late 2009.
Latest HSE figures show the number of child patients waiting over two years for procedures at Crumlin has increased from only three in December 2009 to 37 today.
Last week, the findings of an unpublished review found the country's three children's hospitals were significantly under-using their operating theatre capacity.
The report, which was leaked to the media before Health Minister James Reilly knew of its existence, stated there was a significant shortfall in operations which was not due to resource or staffing issues.
"I just can't believe there are theatres lying idle and meanwhile my daughter's physiotherapist is telling me she is not walking because she is weakened by her heart condition," said Deirdre.
Another mother, whose child's vital heart operation was cancelled 25 minutes before it was due to commence, last night described Health Minister James Reilly's move to disband the board of the Health Service Executive as "nothing more than a PR stunt".
Karen Denning from Dunboyne, Co Meath, whose child Christian (5) was born with a congenital heart condition, said sick and dying children were languishing on waiting lists and yet the Health Minister was "too busy engaging in PR stunts to help them".
Her son was born with a defect which meant only three of the four chambers in his heart developed while he is also missing a left ventricle.
The five year old has twice undergone major open-heart surgery at Crumlin Hospital.
"Handing your child over to an anaesthetist for open-heart surgery -- or any surgery for that matter -- has to be the most traumatic thing a parent ever has to do.
"So being told it was being cancelled at the last minute because there was no bed available in the intensive care unit was devastating," she added.
"I want to know what Minister Reilly is going to do for these children, asking the HSE board to step down is going to do nothing to help these kids and generate more beds or resources," she said.