Dr Orla Franklin, a consultant paediatric cardiologist at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Dublin, is concerned some children are suffering needlessly.
Most of the children have a heart valve or obstruction problem and respond well to treatment.
Dr Franklin is also vice-president of the Irish Hospital Consultants’ Association (IHCA) which is highlighting how patients were being failed by an under-resourced health service.
“I don’t know if anybody is going to die as a consequence of reduced access to out-patients but I do know there is a risk,” she said at the launch of the IHCA’s pre-budget submission.
Funding for paediatric cardiology was on the back foot, responding to disasters such as the case of Roisín Ruddle. “That is not the way to deliver healthcare,” she said. She was referring to two-year-old Limerick girl, Róisín Ruddle, who died within hours of her heart surgery being cancelled at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in July 2003.
She pointed out there was an 18-month waiting list for an out-patient appointment with her at Temple Street Children’s University Hospital in Dublin.
“Children are prioritised on the basis of need,” said Dr Franklin. She would listen to representations made on behalf of some children by their GP or neonatal consultant.
Dr Franklin said there was exceptional intensive care unit in Crumlin for those children who could get it, but it was a “bottleneck” regarding access.
Extra resources would be welcome, she said, but even if five ICU beds were opened this week, the necessary expertise would not be available.
“There have been jobs advertised for intensive care consultants in Crumlin for which there have not been applicants — that is unprecedented in health care in Ireland.”
Dr Franklin said Great Ormond Street in London was offering nurses accommodation and a travel allowance, as well as a supportive and highly structured early years training programme.
Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital was trying very hard to catch up with Great Ormond Street to attract nurses, but that would take some time.
“Ten years ago every job advertised by the hospital had multiple applicants — they were hotly contested. The best person got the job. That was good for patients.”
Dr Franklin believes children with cardiac issues in Ireland are suffering needlessly because the healthcare system was under-resourced and underfunded.
“The needs of these children are predictable – one in 150 children who are born this year and next year will have heart disease,” she said.
“So we know that 500 new children come into our system every year. We know that we are better able to deliver care to even the sickest of those children.”
The IHCA’s document shows that last year, 40,924 elective surgeries were cancelled, adding further to inpatient and day case waiting lists
Theatre closures are a major problem in Cork University Maternity Hospital with over 100 surgeries cancelled this year as a result of low staffing levels.
Waterford University Hospital only has two consultant urologists and there is a nine year waiting list for an out-patient appointment.