CHILDREN suffering from cataracts and tumours on their eyes – one just six weeks old – could lose their sight as a direct result of cutbacks at the country’s leading paediatric hospital.
Temple Street has been forced to admit that a chronic shortage of consultant anaesthetists means vital surgeries will be cancelled over July and August.
The crisis, which was revealed by Prof Michael O’Keefe, will affect at least 30 children – nine of whom are under his care – when surgeries are cancelled between July 19 and 23.
The consultant ophthalmologist has warned that dozens more children risk losing their sight between now and August when further cancellations are made.
“This has been known since April but management have an ostrich-like tendency to stick their head in the sand,” Prof O’Keefe told the Irish Examiner. “These are children with serious conditions, who have to be treated within a certain timeframe because of the damage that could be caused.
“I was told on Thursday that operations for nine children under my care, aged between six weeks and 10 years, have been cancelled without any discussion. The doctors and nurses are available to work but we don’t have anaesthetists.”
Correspondence signed by all consultant surgeons, paediatricians and radiologists at the hospital warning of the consequences of the situation was sent to Temple Street’s chief executive Paul Cunniffe on June 4.
The letter, seen by the Irish Examiner, said concerns about the “crisis in consultant staffing” were originally raised with Mr Cunniffe on April 22, but that no action was taken.
The HSE said Temple Street is a voluntary hospital and any decisions made are the responsibility of management at the facility.
A spokesperson for the hospital confirmed the surgeries have been cancelled due to a lack of expert personnel, but said any affected patients will be prioritised for a new admission date.
Physicians have insisted this plan will only succeed in delaying surgeries for other children currently unaffected by the crisis.
Professor told not to speak out
PROF Michael O’Keefe has confirmed he was contacted by senior hospital management and warned he faced disciplinary action if the situation at Temple Street was revealed.
The gagging attempt occurred on Thursday evening and was ignored by the senior consultant.
Despite a claim he would be hauled before the board of management to explain any public statement, the hospital declined to confirm whether such a scenario will now take place.
Prof O’Keefe said he will not apologise for his remarks.
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