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 Header Item Hospital Services (Continued)
 Header Item Business of Dáil

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 933 No. 1

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Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Catherine Byrne): Information on Catherine Byrne Zoom on Catherine Byrne I thank Deputy Aylward for raising this matter. I am pleased to take this opportunity to update the House on scoliosis services. Long waiting times for scoliosis surgery are not acceptable, and the Department is working closely with the Health Service Executive, HSE, to address services pressures, particularly in Our Lady's Children's Hospital Crumlin, which is the largest provider of scoliosis surgery for children and young people.

Additional funding of €1.042 million was allocated under the 2015 service plan to increase capacity at Crumlin, and further resources of €0.987 million were allocated under the 2016 service plan for orthopaedics and trauma to address service needs in Crumlin. The HSE is actively working with the hospital to advance the development of orthopaedic services, including spinal surgery services, which will have a positive effect on access for scoliosis patients. All patients on the waiting list are clinically triaged by a consultant as to their acuity and surgeries are carried out in order of clinical priority and waiting time, in order to provide an equitable service.

The number of consultant orthopaedic surgeons at Crumlin has increased by 1.5 whole time equivalents. The construction of a new orthopaedic theatre in Crumlin has been completed. This new facility will provide capacity for additional scoliosis activity in 2017. However, the use of this theatre is dependent on the recruitment of additional theatre nurses. While the hospital continues to successfully recruit nursing staff, balancing this with attrition rates, maternity leave and sick leave continues to present a challenge. The Children's Hospital Group is exhausting every recruitment and retention avenue available to it, including international recruitment, and is proactively working on nurse recruitment to support the opening of the new theatre.

In order to improve access in the short term, the HSE winter initiative 2016-17 includes €2 million provided specifically for surgery for scoliosis patients. To date under this initiative, 54 patients have been treated, have received appointments for treatment or been removed from the waiting list through clinical validation. This includes nine additional patients who have had their surgery at Crumlin and eight who have been given treatment dates. In addition, 23 patients have had surgery, or are scheduled for surgery, at Blackrock Clinic. Crumlin is continuing to work through a capacity plan to schedule patients that do not meet the age and clinical criteria for surgery in another hospital.

In an effort to address inpatient and outpatient spinal orthopaedic waiting lists at Tallaght hospital, an additional half-time consultant was appointed in late 2014. In 2015, some €1 million was provided by the HSE to fund 100 degenerate spinal surgeries at Tallaght. An additional consultant is due to also start work at the hospital in July 2017.

The Department will continue to work with the HSE and the relevant hospitals to ensure improvements in access to spinal surgery. The Children's Hospital Group is engaging with the scoliosis advocacy groups on developing a partnership approach to the design and planning of services for children with scoliosis. This provides an opportunity for them to work with hospitals and consultants in the design and planning of paediatric scoliosis services.

Deputy Bobby Aylward: Information on Bobby Aylward Zoom on Bobby Aylward I thank the Minister of State for her response and I hope she will appreciate that I am not trying to be political in any way, shape or form on this particular issue but we must do everything we can in the coming weeks and months to shorten these waiting lists. These children and their families are enduring too much pain and suffering as a result of the current waiting times and I urge the Minister of State and top officials in the Department to approach this issue with all of their ability and innovative thinking.

  We have to get creative. This is life-changing surgery and access to the surgery is the crux of this issue. We must get the theatres adequately staffed to increase the capacity and reduce the waiting times. The longer we leave these children, the worse they get. They start off with a 10o or 20o degree of curve. If they are treated at that stage, it will save money on major surgery later on. More money should be put into early diagnosis and treatment for these children before the situation becomes critical. In Mary's case, she was left for 12 months and her curve went from 40o to 100o degrees before the surgery was carried out. If that child had been seen when the curve was at 40o, it would have saved a lot of money for the State and a lot of pain for the child. Many children are coming into the system and there is a waiting list, although I do not have the figure here. I got it from the advocacy group. I ask the Minister of State to do everything she can to take these children in early and have them seen to early so that the curves in their spines will not get too serious before they are treated.

Deputy Catherine Byrne: Information on Catherine Byrne Zoom on Catherine Byrne Speaking personally, as a mother and a grandmother, no child should be left waiting for surgery for such a long time. Unfortunately, as the Deputy knows, in the past matters were not as fluid as we would have liked them to be, but funding is now beginning to build up again and the Minister is doing his utmost to ensure that staff are provided. The HSE has tried to recruit people, especially in specialties around paediatric orthopaedic services and theatre nurses. We are trying to face this challenge together. I am delighted that the Minister has engaged with the parents' advocacy group. I will relay the Deputy's wealth of understanding of this serious situation to him. Like any parent, I do not want to see any child suffer.

I hope we will be able to address this early in the new year. It is not that people have not tried but that the staff has not been there to facilitate the opening of the new theatre in Crumlin. As somebody who lives quite close to the hospital, I know the wonderful work done there on a daily basis for young and older children.

Business of Dáil

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I understand that the Government Chief Whip has a proposal for an amendment to the business for the week.

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty I propose, notwithstanding the Order of the Dáil on Tuesday, that in respect of tomorrow's business the motion re report of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach on the proposals for a Council directive on a common consolidated corporate tax base and for a Council directive on a common corporate tax base shall be taken without debate; that the Dáil shall suspend for half an hour on the conclusion of the voting block; and that the proceedings tomorrow on the Report and Final Stages of the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Bill 2016 [Seanad] if not previously concluded, shall not adjourn at 3.50 p.m. but shall continue until the conclusion of the proceedings of the Bill, to be followed by Questions to the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality.

The Dáil on its rising at the end of tomorrow's sitting shall adjourn until 2 p.m. on Tuesday, 17 January 2017 and there shall be no sitting on Friday.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Is that agreed? Agreed.

  Sitting suspended at 5.38 p.m. and resumed at 6.10 p.m.

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