The mother of a four-year-old girl who has already spent years on a waiting list for a vital hip operation, said she fears the latest delays in complex scoliosis surgery in Temple St Hospital will push more children down the queue.
onya Boyce from Kilmacanogue, Co Wicklow, said her daughter Cara, who was born with spina bifida and is confined to a wheelchair, has had a dislocated hip since birth.
But although it should have been corrected before she was two, she still has no date for the surgery.
“Cara will be five later this month and starts junior infants class today with her dislocated hip and I still have no idea when the surgery will be carried out,” she said.
Her heart sank when she heard Temple Street Hospital is having to postpone planned operations on children who were ready to have complex scoliosis surgery over the next three weeks because of pressure on services.
The hospital said it had increased complex scoliosis surgeries since April but these children can need multiple follow-up operations with stays of as much as six months in some cases.
It needs to pause for three weeks to plan how it will manage these young patients going forward into autumn and winter.
Cara does not have scoliosis but she is among 52 children living with spina bifida and waiting for orthopaedic care in Temple Street who are languishing on waiting lists, said the Paediatric Advocacy Group — parents who have been campaigning for improvements in services.
Tonya said: “Cara is having to sit on a dipped seat in her wheelchair and is leaning to one side. It is uncomfortable and I see her changing positions. She is not getting the full benefit of her physiotherapy.
“She will have to sit for several hours in school. At some point when she gets the surgery, she will need to take time off school.”
Amanda Coughlan-Santry, co-lead of the Paediatric Advocacy Group, said she acknowledged the huge body of work done by frontline staff since families started the campaign to tackle waiting lists earlier this year.
However, she said her group had foreseen the kind of postponements now enforced unless there was a timely access for children to prevent post-operative complications, prolonged stays and readmissions.
She said the additional €19m in funding provided this year to make inroads in to waiting lists “has been spread too thinly across a range of spina bifida and scoliosis-related services and this is the knock-on effect.”
“Unfortunately efforts made by us to maintain engagement and highlight our concerns with Health Minister Stephen Donnelly have been met with silence,” she said. “When negative attention passes, so too does the promise of support.”
A spokeswoman for Temple Street said as of August 28, it had done the same number of spinal fusions year to date as were completed for the full year of 2021 — a total of 28.
Of 31 spinal fusion waiting list patients, 13 are complex. Non-complex spinal surgeries are continuing.
“We remain on track to deliver on the promise that by year end, no patient will be waiting longer than four months for spinal surgery – if clinically appropriate.”
However, Claire Cahill of the Scoliosis Advocacy Network said across the children’s hospitals, 258 children are waiting for scoliosis-related surgeries – a significant increase on the list of 187 last September.