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'Aisling's curve is now 70%': Minister says waiting four years for scoliosis surgery is too long

Aisling Corcoran had steel rods removed from her back in 2014.

Image: Shutterstock/ChooChin

A WOMAN WHO is in need of complex surgery on her spine due to scoliosis will have to wait a further three months for her operation, the Dáil has been told.

Independents 4 Change TD Joan Collins raised the situation with Tánaiste Simon Coveney during Leaders’ Questions today, stating that Aisling Corcoran had rods inserted when she was a young child because she had scoliosis. 

However, in 2014, she had to have the rods removed as they were infected.

She then went on the waiting list for surgery to get rods re-inserted. The 31-year-old was assessed and put on the surgery list as a priority, the Dáil was told, and eventually, she was given a date of 5 September 2017 for her operation.

It later transpired that her surgery was cancelled by the surgeon “due to personal matters”.

Collins said that while this was a “huge letdown” for the family, these things can happen. The surgery was rescheduled for a later date.

Surgery delayed 

“Again, she underwent pre-operative assessment, X-rays and scans. It involved getting organised, getting her bags packed and anxiety. At the eleventh hour, the operation was, again, cancelled due to personal matters. This was a massive letdown mentally and physically for Aisling,” Collins told the Tánaiste.

Collins said no professional contact has been made with Aisling or her family, and no new date has been set out.

“In the meantime, Aisling’s curve is now 70%. There is a danger that her walk, structure and organs will be affected. Her life is on hold. She gets terrible spasms of pain and often ends up in accident and emergency departments or stays in bed for days. Aisling cannot plan her future,” she said, adding that Aisling, who travelled with her mother from Mayo this morning to be in the Dáil chamber, is seeking “an honest answer and expects an honest reply”.

The Tánaiste said he had been in contact with the Health Minister Simon Harris’ office, who has in turn been in contact with the hospital involved.

Coveney told the Dáil that he had received a letter from the hospital this morning confirming that the surgery will take place in three months time.

He added that Aisling’s surgery is “too complex an operation” for it to be done abroad, adding that the procedure involves two consultant doctors because of its complexity.

“One of those consultants is not available for personal reasons between now and when it can be done but we have a commitment in writing today that this procedure will take place in three months time so I hope that will give Aisling and her family some certainty,” said Coveney.

Three-month wait 

Collins told the chamber that she received the letter this morning confirming the three-month wait, adding:

I do not think it is acceptable. This is an ‘arse-covering’ exercise as far as I can see… Are we saying that patients have to wait for consultants at the consultants’ call? … Are we saying that this consultant is the only consultant who can do this surgery?
This is an emergency case. She is a priority. If it cannot be done here within a reasonable period of time, not three months because something else could happen in three months time, we should bring some expert over from London or Europe to carry out this surgery.

The Tánaiste said he accepted that nobody should have to wait four years, but said the case is not one that can be covered under the National Treatment Purchase Fund (a government fund which pays for people to travel abroad for health treatments).

“Would the Tánaiste accept waiting for four years? Would he accept his daughter walking around in severe pain for four years? It is not acceptable and the health service should be able to respond and service their patients,” she said.

Coveney admitted that the operation should have been done before now. “We are trying to ensure that it is and the procedure can take place as quickly as possible,” he said.

He highlighted that the paediatric scoliosis action plan launched last year is delivering  results, stating that 321 surgeries took place in 2017, compared to 220 in 2016, representing a 46% increase in activity.

The HSE has confirmed that it will maintain a four-month target into 2018 and beyond, he said. Coveney said he would meet Aisling and her family today to discuss her case.

Read: ‘D. R. A. F. T – not the final draft’ – Taoiseach spells out his position in row with cross-party TDs>

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