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Donnelly says child scoliosis patients should receive surgery within four months under new plan

The plan was first discussed by the Health Minister in the Dáil on Tuesday.

HEALTH MINISTER STEPHEN Donnelly has said that he doesn’t want to see scoliosis patients waiting for more than four months to receive surgery, with new plans drawn up to tackle the waiting lists.

The plans, drawn up by Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) and Cappagh Orthopaedic Hospital, will seek to reduce the waiting times that both children and teenagers face for essential orthopaedic surgeries.

Donnelly spoke of the plan on Tuesday in the Dáil, saying that it was one of the most pressing issues around waiting lists and that while some children were being treated quickly, many others are forced to wait too long for surgery.

“Far too many are having to wait far too long. It’s not acceptable now, it hasn’t been acceptable for years,” said Donnelly.

Donnelly first requested a plan to be drawn up by the HSE and the hospitals involved in January, and have since been conveyed to patients groups at a meeting yesterday.

The plan aims to cut down the number of scoliosis patients waiting over four months for surgery down to zero by the end of the year. Currently, there are 94 children who have been waiting for four months.

“I have approved the plan and welcome the target to ensure that no scoliosis patient is waiting over 4 months for a procedure by the end of this year,” Donnelly said.

“Time is a critical factor in ensuring children with conditions such as Scoliosis and Spina Bifida have a positive outcome from their surgeries.”   

It also aims to increase the number of scoliosis spinal surgeries by 92 in 2022, and reduce the overall waiting list from 224 at the end of January to 128 by the end of the year.

The plan is also seeking to treat an additional 107 Spinal Bifida cases this year.

To achieve this, Donnelly says that there will be an increase to the in-patient and day case capacity by increasing access to operating theatres in Crumlin, Temple Street and Cappagh hospitals. There will also be additional theatre space, beds and MRI capacity made available.

Operating theatres will have time for orthopaedic procedures ringfenced and protected, and there will be additional activity taking place within Cappagh Hospital.

Further use of private hospital facilities is also planned.

“We have, what I think is a very ambitious but a very good plan in place,” Donnelly said on Tuesday.

At Leaders Questions last week, Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald raised the case of Ava Cahill, an 11-year-old from Tallaght with spina bifida who has been waiting for more than a year and a half for corrective surgery and was featured in an RTÉ report.

Figures reported by RTÉ over the weekend find that there are up to 56 children with spina bifida waiting for corrective surgery.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin responded by stating that funding has been provided to the HSE and CHI, and he urged them to get on with the surgeries. 

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