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CHI at Temple Street in Dublin city Alamy Stock Photo

Children 'suffering' as life-changing surgery delayed at Temple Street after spinal controversy

Parents and a consultant have raised concerns about the impact of long waiting lists on children’s quality of life.

PARENTS AND A consultant at Temple Street hospital have raised concerns about the impact of long waiting lists on children who need life-changing surgery.

The hospital has been embroiled in controversy since it emerged that one child died and others suffered serious post-surgery complications following spinal surgery there.

The consultant surgeon involved, Connor Green, has been on voluntary leave for almost a year and he has not been replaced, which has made waiting lists even worse.

Several hundred children are currently on the waiting list for spinal and orthoepaedic surgery at Temple Street, with some waiting over a year for their operation.

Parents and a consultant at the hospital have expressed concern about the impact of Green’s ongoing absence on waiting lists.

Professor Damian McCormack, the lead paediatric orthopaedic consultant surgeon at Temple Street, recently called on hospital management to ensure Green returns to work in order to tackle waiting lists for children who require surgery to treat painful and complex limb and spinal conditions.

In a call to management to cut surgical wait times, McCormack said: “These children are suffering and will continue to suffer unless Connor returns to work.”

Time-sensitive surgery 

The mother of a young girl who was one of Green’s patients told The Journal she has struggled to get information about her daughter’s treatment plan after an appointment was cancelled last month.

The four-year-old girl has a rare genetic condition and has time-sensitive issues with her hips, knees and toes. She needs to be assessed soon to determine whether or not she needs surgery. If she does require surgery, it has to be carried out in the coming months.

“Should she need surgery, it needs to be done before age five. She will be five in October so there is not a lot of time,” the girl’s mother told us.

The mother said she contacted the hospital multiple times before they replied, but her daughter now has a new appointment with a different consultant in late May.

She is relieved her daughter has an appointment but is concerned that, if she does need surgery, it may not be carried out before the October deadline giving waiting times at the hospital.

The average wait time for non-spinal orthopaedic surgeries at Temple Street, such as the ones her daughter may need, is 11.6 months, CHI confirmed.

The mother has lodged a formal complaint over the situation via CHI’s patient liaison department. She said she would consider bringing her daughter abroad for surgery if offered this alternative, given the time-sensitive nature of her condition.

Some parents have been given this option as the hospital attempts to tackle long waiting lists. However, McCormack said this is not the right approach.

“The transfer of complex surgical problems abroad is unnecessary and unsafe and an abdication of clinical responsibility,” he said.

Hundreds of children on waiting lists

When asked for comment, a spokesperson for CHI said the organisation cannot comment on individual cases.

They confirmed that some 427 patients are awaiting non-spinal orthopaedic procedures in CHI at Temple Street, but said this figure does not include suspended or planned procedures.

The spokesperson said they could not confirm the longest time a patient has been waiting for surgery at Temple Street as this would mean commenting on individual cases, even anonymously.

Some 348 patients are currently awaiting non-spinal orthopaedic procedures in CHI at Crumlin. Again, this figure does not include suspended or planned procedures. The average wait time for non-spinal orthopaedic surgeries at Crumlin is 24 months.

Around 245 children are currently waiting to undergo spinal surgery at CHI hospitals. Some 79 of these patients have been waiting for over four months, while 35 have been waiting for over a year.

In relation to the waiting lists at Temple Street, and Green’s continued absence, CHI’s spokesperson said patients are being transferred to the care of other consultants “according to clinical priority”.

“Work is in progress to further support access through special measures such as additional clinics and using private sector capacity options where available and appropriate,” they added.

Children’s Health Ireland (CHI), which runs Temple Street, launched internal and external reviews of spinal surgical outcomes following the controversy last year. The HSE also launched an external review last September.

Among the concerns were the use of a certain spinal surgical technique and the fact unauthorised devices were implanted in three patients.

Green last performed spinal surgery in April 2023 and limb surgery in July 2023. He took voluntary leave after CHI referred him to the Irish Medical Council.

OrthoKids Ireland, a group set up by parents of children who were patients of Green, has also called for him to be reinstated.

With additional reporting by David Raleigh