Over 530 children on waiting list for crucial surgery

More than 530 children are stuck on waiting lists for orthopaedic surgery, some of whom need urgent treatment for spinal curvature, a scenario described as "unacceptably dangerous" by a leading paediatric surgeon.

Patrick Kiely, consultant at Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin, said the delays not only cause increased deformity in a growing child, but they also lead to more complex surgeries.

“It’s counterproductive. The risks rise, complications are more likely, in some cases spinal deformity grows rapidly worse. And it’s not economically sensible. Research indicates a 15%-30% increased cost associated with correcting the more severe curves [of the spine],” Mr Kiely said.

The data in relation to the resources needed to treat these children “had been distributed for years at multiple levels throughout the corridors of power” in an effort to get the situation addressed, Mr Kiely said, but in the end, frustrated surgeons took matters into their own hands and set up a charity, called Straight Ahead, to tackle the Crumlin waiting lists. Those on the waiting list include:

n230 day-case patients, 185 of whom are waiting up to six months, and 45 of whom are waiting from six months to two years n306 awaiting inpatient surgery, 159 for up to six months, and the remainder for between six months and two years.

To date, the surgeons, including Mr Kiely and Crumlin colleague David Moore, have performed 29 operations pro bono, working on Saturdays when theatre time is available. Mr Kiely said they are performing operations for in the region of €10,000-€15,000 compared to HSE costs of €30,000-€50,000 for surgery to correct scoliosis (curvature of the spine).

“Most of us are sitting here with our big salaries saying we could be working more effectively. We spend our lives asking to do more. What motivates us is not the money, it’s doing a job that we love. With the appropriate resources we could be doing a lot more,” Mr Kiely said. Despite the surgery team increasing its output year on year, they were still not able to get to patients fast enough due to a lack of manpower and theatre access, Mr Kiely said.

When asked if it planned to recruit any more surgeons, Crumlin said it has submitted a business case to the HSE for extra resources. The HSE said “we have included paediatric orthopaedic surgery in the estimates for 2015 to address the waiting list issues”.

Today a team of 25 will take to the road for Straight Ahead at the start of a four-day charity cycle from Malin to Mizen.


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