Consultants blast 'completely inadequate' waiting lists for children

Consultants blast 'completely inadequate' waiting lists for children

The issue of wait times for orthopaedic surgery was thrust into the limelight when the story of Cork boy Adam Terry, pictured with mum Christine made national headlines on budget day in October. Picture courtesy of Brian O'Connell

Some children who are able to walk independently are forced to use a wheelchair full time while waiting for orthopaedic surgery, a consultant has said.

Speaking to the Oireachtas health committee, consultant orthopaedic surgeon Connor Green said the care for children with scoliosis in this country is “completely inadequate”.

He said that across the range of orthopaedic conditions, children are facing high waiting lists and it wasn’t clear when the issues could be solved.

The issue of wait times for orthopaedic surgery was thrust into the limelight when the story of Cork boy Adam Terry made national headlines on budget day in October.

The 10-year-old from Whitechurch had to wait four years for his scoliosis surgery. He had described his pain as "almost paralysing".

His mother Christine told RTÉ radio on Thursday morning that Adam was now recovering “better than we ever thought” from surgery, and he had told her “this is the start of the rest of my life” while they were on the way home to Cork post-surgery.

Addressing the committee, Mr Green said it would be “dishonest” to suggest the high waiting lists for children with scoliosis and other orthopaedic conditions come as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic or the cyberattack on the HSE in May.

“The unacceptably high waiting times were here before these things,” he said.

Mr Green said he currently had 242 patients in Temple Street waiting for orthopaedic surgery, and another 282 in Cappagh National Orthopaedic Hospital. He said an expansion of facilities available would help to ease the high waiting lists.

“There won’t be any difference to the waiting list in six months,” he said. 

“It’s possible the waiting list could’ve increased further [at Temple Street and Cappagh].” 

System 'more and more chaotic'

His colleague Professor Damien McCormack told the committee the system had become “more and more chaotic”, and said everything was “in flux”.

Mr Green said he cancelled clinics on Thursday to come and advocate for the children he treats, and said entire generations of children were being “sidelined” due to a lack of resources.

Prof McCormack said there was a lack of skilled surgeons in this area in Ireland, and this was adding to the problem.

“We should be embarrassed if a patient goes abroad for treatment,” he added. “We are better than that.” 

Addressing the committee, Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) chief executive Eilísh Hardiman said elective surgeries had to be cancelled at different stages of the pandemic.

She said the annual target of 382 orthopaedic surgeries was “decimated” due to Covid-19.

“We would like to be able to achieve better, more timely access,” she said.

Ms Hardiman said before the pandemic, investment provided to CHI had helped it reduce waiting lists and further investment would allow its capacity to be increased again.

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