Scoliosis kids face being 'outsourced' as spinal unit on 3-day week here
Surgeons from Germany will visit Our Lady's Hospital in Crumlin this week to assess young patients who are desperately in need of surgery to correct their scoliosis.
The children with the severe spinal condition, who have been waiting two years for surgery in some cases, will be assessed to determine if they are fit enough to travel to St Franziskus Hospital in Munster, Germany.
Nearly 300 children are on the waiting list for an operation, but a target to have no child waiting more than four months by the end of the year for surgery can only be met if a large number of patients travel to hospitals in London and Germany.
Children are being mostly operated on in Crumlin and Temple Street, while surgery has also been outsourced to the Mater and Cappagh hospitals.
However, the need to travel abroad has distressed many parents, who feel it is a form of "emotional blackmail".
Claire Cahill, of the family advocacy group ScolioNetwork, said: "Unfortunately to date we have not seen an overall reduction in wait lists or wait times for children, even though we have been told there is a limitless budget available in order to meet four-month targets by year end.
"The HSE appear unable to manage this crisis - their only answer is to outsource our children across Europe.
"All the while the spinal theatre in Crumlin is only open three days per week.
"A new consultant orthopaedic surgeon may have started in September, but there has been no additional theatre time to go with this post.
"We are fully cognisant that in order to have any hope of meeting four-month targets by year end more than 100 children will have to travel for their surgery.
"We wholly welcome any initiative that enables children to have access to their essential surgery, but ask for the immediate increase of the spinal theatre Crumlin to five days per week to help provide care for the children who due to age or additional medical conditions cannot travel to have their surgery."
A spokeswoman for the Children's Hospital Group said: "Significant and ongoing eff-orts are being undertaken to improve this service.
"For the first time in a number of years the waiting list for scoliosis-related surgery is reducing.
"However, an outsourcing initiative has been necessary in order to support this four-month target.
"We are absolutely committed to delivering on the four-month scoliosis target by the end of 2017 in a planned, safe and sustainable manner for those that require surgery."
The Children's Hospital Group has submitted funding proposals to the Department of Health to allow for a service to be provided in Ireland from early next year which would have a four-month deadline for surgery.
Health Minister Simon Harris said yesterday it is essential to deal with the backlog, and he makes "no apologies" for offering parents the alternative option of their child having surgery abroad.
He said an additional €10m has been targeted to reduce the waiting time and there has been a big increase in spinal surgeries carried out in Crumlin this year.
The orthopaedic theatre in Crumlin will need an additional two surgeons to extend the surgery to five days.
Mr Harris said he is conscious that going abroad will not suit every family, but everything that can be done is being done.