Health | Addressing the delay in dealing with the waiting lists of children seeking scoliosis procedures
To ask the Minister for Health the reason for delay in dealing with the waiting lists of children seeking procedures for scoliosis; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
I sincerely regret that children can experience a long waiting time for scoliosis treatment and remain conscious of the burden that this places on them and their families.
Last year I approved an ambitious plan from Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) to reduce the number of children waiting for spinal orthopaedic procedures (scoliosis/spina bifida) by the year end. Some €19 million of current and capital funding was committed to implement the plan.
This funding is providing additional theatre access at Temple Street and Crumlin, diagnostic MRI capacity and enabling further activity and paediatric theatre lists at Cappagh Hospital.
The additional activity is targeted at reducing the number of children waiting long periods for orthopaedic procedures (including scoliosis and spina bifida).
As of the 30th of December, 509 scoliosis procedures had been carried out, compared to 380 for the same period in 2019 (a 34% increase), and an increase of 47% compared to 2021. In January, 39 spinal procedures were carried out. This included 9 spinal fusion procedures carried out by Crumlin, 2 spinal fusions in Cappagh and also includes 4 spinal fusions outsourced to the private sector. This is an increase of 5 spinal fusions and 7 spinal other procedures when compared to this time last year.
Children’s Health Ireland and Cappagh Kids continue to work to explore new innovative ways of working and develop initiatives to support additional orthopaedic and scoliosis activity.
The hospitals are working together to do as much as possible for patients. As of the 30th of December, Cappagh completed 549 (non-complex) orthopaedic surgeries and 68 surgeries for Spina Bifida patients transferred from CHI, exceeding the target of 61 for the year.
Despite undertaking a record number of spinal procedures in 2022, corresponding reductions in the waiting list were offset by significant increase in demand and referrals compared to previous years with a 30% increase in additions to the spinal surgery list compared to 2021. CHI believes this is due to a loss of additional capacity elsewhere and latent Covid-19 demand via increased outpatient activity.
Due to an unprecedented increase in demand through ED’s and Urgent Care Centres and the resulting pressure on its hospitals’ capacity, CHI has had to reduce planned elective and routine inpatient admissions, and this will continue over the winter period.
Similar pressures are being experienced and are well documented in paediatric hospitals around Europe, in the US and in adult hospitals in Ireland.
To help reduce the risk of future postponements management and clinicians are working together to implement additional supports needed to address the impact of this increased volume of complex surgeries. Some key areas for action have been identified and include consultant and nursing recruitment (inpatient and higher dependency beds) and improved emergency theatre access.
CHI is currently finalising a plan for 2023 to continue and build on the work done in 2022. €123m funding was allocated to the HSE in Budget 2023 that will be made available on a recurring basis to ensure the reforms deliver sustained reductions in waiting lists and ensure we achieve the strategic Sláintecare maximum wait time targets. Scoliosis/Spina Bifida is included as one of the priority areas for this funding. An additional €240m once-off funding was also allocated in Budget 2023 for the NTPF and HSE to continue tackling waiting list backlogs next year.
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