I thank the Ceann Comhairle and his office for calling this important matter. This concerns two secondary school students in my constituency aged 15 and 17 years respectively who suffer with a condition known as scoliosis, in which the spine grows inwards and from side to side causing pain, deformity or even breathing problems in the late stages. The condition in its severest form causes curvature of the spine and visible deformity. Both girls require specialist operations to correct the curvature. There is no connection between the two cases except that neither has been able to get the necessary medical and surgical procedure done.
These young women are due to sit their leaving certificate examinations in 2010 and were happy to be advised by Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin that their operations would take place in April and June of this year which would give them time to recover and enable them to study for their examinations without pain or the distraction that their illness causes. One young girl has been on the waiting list for three and a half years. Due to cutbacks and ward closures imposed by the Health Service Executive, HSE, however, one student has had her operation cancelled and no alternative date has been given. The other student has been given a provisional date for June of this year but with no guarantee that the operation will be done then. If either family could afford it, their respective daughters would be attended to almost immediately as private patients for €85,000 each. As a matter of urgency I request the Minister to ensure that both these girls have their operations carried out before the new school term in September 2009.
One of these young women might have been spared this trauma if screening for this disease was available as promised when she was a first year pupil. She must now look forward to enduring a severe operation but is uncertain when it will take place. The other young woman has been told by her consultant that at her age if the operation is not done quickly she may require a subsequent operation down the line. It is heartbreaking for a young woman in these circumstances to be given a date for such an operation only to find it cancelled at short notice. There is something seriously wrong with our health services when the system cannot meet the medical needs of two bright girls who only want to get on with their lives.
I regret to say that I have been unable to get a meaningful response from the Minister, who is normally very understanding of these matters, and it goes without saying that I have been completely unable to extract any meaningful reply from the HSE, which really is shameful.