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Waiting Lists

Waiting lists for children's surgeries to be tackled by extending operating theatre hours

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said “far too many” children are waiting too long for orthopaedic surgery

HEALTH MINISTER STEPHEN Donnelly has said that measures like opening operating theatres at weekends will be examined to help clear the waiting list of children with scoliosis and spina bifida waiting for operations. 

Speaking in the Dáil, he said that it is one of the most pressing issues around waiting lists, and that while some children are being treated quickly, there are too many being forced to wait for treatment.

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

He said that the while progress was being made in 2019 on reducing waiting lists for paediatric orthopaedic surgeries, the Covid-19 pandemic slowed down that progress.

Donnelly said that he had met with hospital managers and surgeons from the three hospitals who are most involved with paediatric orthopaedics: Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) Crumlin, CHI Temple Street and National Orthopaedic Hospital Cappagh.

He said that he discussed a “comprehensive” HSE plan that was created to help reduce the waiting lists for children requiring orthopaedic surgery.

“We have, what I think is a very ambitious but a very good plan in place,” Donnelly said, and that the final details needed to be added. He said that he would be presenting details of the plan soon.

When asked by Labour TD Duncan Smith whether or not the HSE would look at extending the use of operating theatres beyond their 9 to 5, Monday to Friday operating hours, Donnelly said it has been discussed.

“It’s something we’ve discussed, both Monday to Friday opening earlier and later.

“It’s something we know happens in the adult private world: the operating theatres run longer, the diagnostic suites run longer, the operating theatres are open on Saturdays and sometimes they’re open on Sunday.

He said that this was not just confined to paediatric orthopaedics and that it would be looked at across the board for surgeries.

Donnelly also said that the plan would work on a child-by-child basis, rather than be measured by the amount of surgeries that are carried out, due to the fact that some children may require multiple surgeries.

“The targets are not around individual operations, what we’re looking at is child-by-child.”

During 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 who was featured in a recent 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. 

Christina Finn and Tadgh McNally
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