herald

Thursday 8 December 2016

New €2m fund for scoliosis patients a 'stop-gap measure'

Health Minister Simon Harris Photo: Tom Burke
Health Minister Simon Harris Photo: Tom Burke

A new €2m fund to reduce waiting lists for children suffering from curvature of the spine is not enough to address the ongoing crisis in orthopaedic care, the Scoliosis Advocacy Network has claimed.

Health Minister Simon Harris yesterday announced the fund has been secured to treat 39 adolescent patients at Tallaght Hospital and up to 20 children elsewhere on the waiting list for surgery for scoliosis.

The fund is included in €7m that has been set aside as part of a targeted programme to reduce the 18-month waiting list for around 600 orthopaedic procedures at various hospitals nationwide.

They include the Cappagh National Orthopaedic Hospital in Finglas, Dublin's Beaumont and Tallaght hospitals and regional hospitals in Galway, Waterford and Tullamore.

But Claire Cahill, co-founder of the Scoliosis Advocacy Network in Kilkenny, said the fund is only a stop-gap measure that will not address the ongoing crisis in orthopaedic care.

"We do see this as a crisis intervention," Ms Cahill (36) told the Herald.

Her seven-year-old son Darragh was diagnosed with infantile scoliosis at the age of two. He has been on a waiting list for surgery since August 2015 following two unsuccessful medical interventions to correct the curvature of his spine that is now affecting his lung function and growth.

Despite being promised surgery to insert growing rods into his spine in April, he is still waiting for a date.

"He was guaranteed a date this summer. We were ready to go but I heard nothing. Then on July 28, we were told he wouldn't get any surgery this year," she said.

Paralysis

She blamed the dearth of orthopaedic surgeons and ongoing closures of operating theatres at the Crumlin Children's Hospital means most children with scoliosis are waiting for between 12 and 15 months for surgery.

Yet each day they wait, their condition gets worse which increases the cost and risk of serious complications including paralysis, she said.

"The wait times are unacceptable. While I do feel the €2m will help some children, they're not recognising there is a crisis," Ms Cahill added.

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