Scoliosis surgery for children cancelled in Temple Street Hospital

Scoliosis operations for children were scheduled to take place over the next three weeks at Temple Street Hospital in Dublin.
Scoliosis surgery for children cancelled in Temple Street Hospital

Vivienne Clarke

The legal, policy and services director for the Children’s Rights Allowance, Julie Ahern has called on the Government and the Minister for Health to explain why scoliosis surgery for children has been cancelled.

The Government had an obligation to provide a proper health service for children and they needed to tell families what was happening, Ms Ahern told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.

There are over 30 children awaiting operations for complex orthopaedic surgery.

The Children’s Rights Allowance was “deeply concerned” at the cancellation of the scoliosis operations for children which were scheduled to take place over the next three weeks at Temple Street Hospital in Dublin.

The operations had been cancelled pending a review.

The hospital said the cancellations were due to increased workload pressure on its services and staff.

Any delay was crucial and could have a major impact on the child patients, added Ms Ahern.

Families were being left in limbo and the cancellation of such important and complex surgery was having an impact on the wellbeing of children. “They’ve already been through enough, she said.”

There needed to be an examination of what was happening in children’s healthcare – the long waiting lists, said Ms Ahern.

Spinal surgeries

Meanwhile, a statement from Children's Health Ireland has said three complex surgeries have been cancelled over the next three weeks, and all other spinal surgeries will continue.

"Three complex surgeries have been postponed in Children’s Health Ireland at Temple Street for the next three weeks. All other spinal surgeries will continue during this time. This decision was made collaboratively by clinical staff and management for a number of reasons. We are sincerely sorry to those families and patients affected," said the statement.

It said: "The cumulative impact of undertaking a greater volume of these complex surgeries in recent months has resulted in pressures on beds, theatre capacity and on the highly specialised staff working within the service.

"The nature of these complex surgeries means that there are increased medical needs and a likelihood of longer stays in hospital for children and young people with complex conditions.

"Most complex cases require returns to theatre following their first surgery – this can range from 1-3 times usually or unusually, more than 20 times. These follow-ups cannot always be planned for.

"Children’s Health Ireland does not take lightly the decision to postpone any number of surgeries, affecting the children and young people we care for, and we are in constant contact with our families and patients affected to ensure they are kept informed of decisions and issues that may arise in our services.

"We remain on track to deliver on the promise, following receipt of extra funding earlier this year, that by year end, no patient will be waiting longer than 4 months for spinal surgery (if clinically appropriate)."

Losing trust

The co-founder of the Scoliosis Advocacy Network, Claire Cahill, has said that the parents of children awaiting scoliosis surgery are losing trust that the system will deliver.Funding alone was not sufficient to solve the problem, she told RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show.Ms Cahill said there was a small specialised set of medical personnel who had the skills to carry out the complex surgery. It was the same surgeons who were doing the surgery (in different hospitals) so the capacity was very limited which was leading to the lengthening backlog.

The surgeons could not serve the entire sector, and more consultants were needed, she said. The waiting list in September 2021 was 187, in August 2022 it was 258. The more children on the list, the longer the wait for surgery.The children needed safe access to care, she said.

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