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'Chronic pain is particularly acute for children': Issue of children's consultant stepping down raised in Dáil

The issue was raised by TD Dara Calleary in the Dail today.

Simon Coveney in the Dáil today.
Simon Coveney in the Dáil today.
Image: Oireachtas TV

TÁNAISTE SIMON COVENEY has said he will meet with Minister for Health Simon Harris to discuss the issue of Ireland’s only children’s pain consultant stepping down from his post. 

The case was brought up by Fianna Fáil TD Dara Calleary who raised the issue in the Dáil chamber. 

The TD asked the question of the Tánaiste Simon Coveney who responded that he was “very slow to comment” on the decisions of an individual leaving their job. 

“What I will say is of course, if a vacancy is created here that it will be advertised quickly so that we can get somebody else in that role providing important services,” said Coveney. 

Following this, Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin said this was “not an acceptable comment” and asked for further reflection from the Tánaiste.

Howlin questioned how the government allowed the situation to get to this point. 

It was reported earlier today that the only paediatric pain consultant in the country is stepping down from his position due to a lack of funding necessary to provide the required level of service. 

“Chronic pain is a shocking thought for anybody, but it is particularly acute for children. We have one paediatric pain consultant in the state who has now stepped down from his post,” said Howlin today. 

Coveney said he gave his previous comment as he was only informed of the issue this morning and said it’s difficult to give an “informed response” on issues like this without the information. 

“Clearly, there are families and children that if they are under the care of an individual in particular in the are of pain management, that they are getting appropriate and professional care,” said Coveney. 

The Tánaiste said he will speak to Simon Harris about this issue and ask him to come back to Calleary and Howlin. 

Howlin said the families of these children are now facing the prospect of an “indeterminate future without a facility that has given relief to their children in recent times”.

Dr Kevin McCarthy, who announced he would no longer be running the children’s chronic pain clinic at Crumlin and Temple Street Children’s Hospitals, said the service is “completely unsustainable”.

He said it isn’t meeting the needs of the children who rely on it without a full team and sufficient funding. As a result, McCarthy decided to step back from the role. 

The children who use the service are living with chronic pain resulting from a variety of conditions including surgery, trauma, cancer, inflammatory conditions or scoliosis. 

About 75 new patients a year use the service, according to McCarthy. 

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