The Health Minister has announced that a theatre at Crumlin children's hospital in Dublin that is to be dedicated to scoliosis operations will open in April.
Simon Harris says it will result in at least 194 spinal operations being carried out this year.
He met the hospital chief executive and the CEO of the children's hospital group this afternoon after it emerged the theatre was built but hasn't been sufficiently staffed to open.
The Department of Health have issued a list of actions sanctioned by Minister Harris on waiting lists following today's meetings:
Additional theatre capacity will be provided for scoliosis procedures in Crumlin Childrens’ Hospital from April, as new theatre opens
An orthopaedic post in Crumlin Hospital will be filled by June
An Action Plan for Scoliosis will be presented to the Minister by the HSE by the end of February
The NTPF, at the Minister’s request, will now audit the practices in each of the hospitals highlighted by the individual cases featured in the programme last night and will report to the Minister.
The NTPF has informed the Minister that the way it classifies its waiting lists has been the same since its inception in 2002 and follows international best practice. However, it has already commenced a review of international best practice on waiting list data publication models.
The €5m provided by the Minister to the NTPF will see over 2,000 day case procedures undertaken and these procedures will start in March.
The HSE and the NTPF will work together to utilise capacity in both the public and private sector. Working with the NTPF, the HSE will present an Action Plan on Waiting Lists by the end of the month. This plan will concentrate on reducing the length of time patients wait for an inpatient, day case or outpatient appointment, with the aim of no patient waiting longer than 15 months by the end of October. Whilst the Minister considers this is still too long, it would mark a significant reduction in waiting times with an aim of reducing waiting lists further in the next plan.
Budget 2017 makes provision for the treatment of long-waiting patients - €20m has been allocated to the NTPF rising to €55m in 2018.
“This will see significant reductions in waiting lists for scoliosis and waiting times for scoliosis patients,” Minister Harris said.
”At the end of this month, I will receive from the HSE and the Children’s Hospital group and action plan for scoliosis. I will engage with all parties in this house and with advocacy groups in relation to that.
“In addition to that, by June we will have an additional orthopaedic post filled.”
The Minister for Health also said: "I am well aware that if we are to break the vicious cycle of both overcrowding and long waiting lists in our hospitals, we need to put in place fundamental building blocks for our health service."
This involves the following four steps:
a 10 year cross-party plan for the health service which is due to be received in April
more bed capacity and work is underway on a bed capacity review so we can clearly identify the needs in advance of the Government’s mid-term capital review
additional recruitment and retention of nursing staff so we can open closed beds for which we have a funded plan to hire 1,000 new nurses this year
a new GP contract so we can do more in primary care including minor surgical procedures. Discussions on this new contract are now underway.
It follows an RTÉ Investigates programme that found tens of thousands of patients aren’t included on official waiting lists.
The programme Living on the List revealed the personal stories of many Irish patients awaiting treatment, including two children awaiting treatment for scoliosis.