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'We've been waiting for years' - painful wait for spine ops made worse by virus

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Viktoria Jurek, with mum Alzbeta, has waited over four years

Viktoria Jurek, with mum Alzbeta, has waited over four years

Dylan Vaughan

Viktoria Jurek, with mum Alzbeta, has waited over four years

Growing numbers of children suffering from scoliosis, the painful and disabling spinal condition, are enduring distress after vital surgeries were cancelled in recent months due to the Covid-19 crisis.

Figures show that 107 children are now on the waiting list for an operation to straighten their spine, with some suffering deterioration due to the delay.

The majority are patients at Crumlin Hospital while 21 are in treatment in Temple Street.

"We have witnessed an increase in the number of parents contacting us fearful and upset regarding their children's waiting times for scoliosis care," said Claire Cahill, of the Scoliosis Advocacy Network.

Specialist

"Scoliosis is a time-sensitive condition. Long waits for surgery can result in reduced outcomes and higher risks to children."

She said parents accepted that no surgeries or specialist clinics took place during the worst of the Covid-19 spread but "children still require care and treatment".

The last government promised no child would wait longer than four months for surgery but this has been breached.

One of the young patients caught up in delays is 18-year-old Viktoria Jurek, from Norwood in Waterford city, who has been waiting more than four years for surgery.

Viktoria, whose family is originally from Slovakia, has been attending Temple Street Children's Hospital in Dublin for years and was eventually due to have surgery at the end of 2019.

"She had no capacity in her lungs any more. We have been waiting for the surgery for years. Since December we are no clearer on when the operation will go ahead," her father Joseph said.

He said Viktoria, who is confined to a wheelchair, now has very severe scoliosis and the longer the surgery is delayed the more difficult the operation will be.

Her family is now pleading with doctors to set a date for the surgery and end the limbo of uncertainty which is leaving Viktoria struggling daily.

A spokesman for Children's Health Ireland (CHI), overseeing Temple Street and the other children's hospitals, said he could not comment on individual cases.

"CHI sincerely regret that children and their families are experiencing long waiting times for their appointments," he said.

"While the majority of children are seen within a 12-month period, we recognise that too many are waiting too long for their appointments and we are making every effort to reduce these waiting times."

He said Covid-19 the hospitals to defer all non-emergency spinal operations but they are now planning to "phase up services on an incremental basis".