Ombudsman criticises delays in scoliosis surgery

Updated / Monday, 20 Mar 2017 14:20

Scoliosis is a condition causing a side-to-side curvature of the spine

A report from the Ombudsman for Children has found that children have been experiencing significant waiting times for scoliosis surgery, up to 18 months in some cases.

It finds that ongoing delays and the failure by Government to deal with access to scoliosis treatment is impacting on children's rights.

There were 236 patients aged 18 years or under waiting for treatment at the end of December 2016.

The report also says that crisis management has not resolved the issue and there have been significant delays in publishing the promised Health Service Executive action plan on scoliosis.

The HSE says that a Paediatric Action Plan for Scoliosis Treatment has been submitted to the Department of Health for approval.

The report says that no child with scoliosis should have to wait over four months from when the need for surgery is clinically determined.

Ombudsman for Children Niall Muldoon has said that child specific waiting lists should be published for all healthcare services in Ireland.

He said that targets for maximum waiting times for outpatient appointments should be set.

Scoliosis is a condition causing a side-to-side curvature of the spine.

It can occur due to congenital, developmental or degenerative problems, but most cases of scoliosis do not have a known cause.

The testimonies of three young people are included in the report, which the Ombudsman says makes for powerful and chilling reading.

"The whole waiting process made me very sad all the time, I didn't like leaving the house or looking in the mirror. I felt trapped in my own head, nobody else I knew looked like me." - Jane

"They had to move my organs to one side so that they could work on one part of my spine. They also had to cut away some of my ribs." - Delilah

"The lowest point of all for me was in August 2014. I was going into fifth year and I didn't know if I was going to be able to do my Leaving Cert." - Harriet

Today's report says that due to their age and stage of development, young people with scoliosis are suffering severe physical and psychological effects as a result of delays in getting treatment.

In Ireland, the majority of children with scoliosis who require orthopaedic spinal surgeries are treated in Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin.

Smaller numbers of surgeries also occur, or have occurred, at the National Children's Hospital in Tallaght, University Hospital Galway, University Hospital Cork, Cappagh National Orthopaedic Hospital and the Children's University Hospital Temple Street.

A number of other hospitals outside of the Irish public health system have undertaken surgeries as part of a HSE initiative to manage the scoliosis waiting list.

The HSE says that in the past two years Crumlin hospital was allocated over €2m in additional resources for scoliosis and orthopaedic service developments.