I also welcome Councillor Coyle to the Chamber. I thank the Minister for coming to the House to discuss this very important issue. As he is aware, my patients are in fear because the treatment they so badly require could be in jeopardy due to the constant staffing crisis which is crippling our health system.
I have listened with great sadness and shame, as has the Minister of State, to the stories of very young children and adolescents with scoliosis who are waiting inexcusably long times to receive treatment. Today, however, I am raising the issue of adults with scoliosis who are also at the mercy of long waiting lists.
It was brought to my attention by Councillor Walter Lacey that a patient of Mr. Pat Kiely, consultant orthopaedic surgeon in Tallaght hospital, was recently advised that he was no longer working in the hospital and the waiting list would be outsourced to a different hospital under a different consultant. Unfortunately for some, that is the sum total of the communication they have received.
One woman was diagnosed with scoliosis in 1995. In September 2014, she had a two-part operation carried out under Mr. Kiely and requires further treatment on her spine, specifically an injection and a fusion of the spine. In June 2016, more than one year ago, she was advised she would be seen as a priority case. In January 2017, she was advised by her doctor that Mr. Kiely had moved on and she would now be under the care of a different consultant in a different hospital. She has yet to receive any further update on her case. In the meantime, she struggles on and minds her three children despite her disability. Her GP telephoned the hospital on her behalf to be told not to ring any more. It is frustrating and is not acceptable that a health professional who is advocating for a patient was dismissed in such a fashion. Patients like her are being left in a painful limbo.
As the Minister knows, the management of scoliosis is complex and determined by the severity of the curvature and skeletal maturity, which together predict the likelihood of progression. According to the HSE's action plan for scoliosis treatment, to achieve the target of a four-month waiting list, 447 patients will need to receive treatment before the end of 2017. As the Minister will probably agree, these targets will not be met. Some 447 patients need treatment before the end of 2017. It is a significant ask for the staff of the theatres concerned to facilitate that number of patients. To lose one consultant is a major blow.
I would also like to put on the record of the House my acknowledgement of the work of Mr. Kiely. He does fantastic work in this field. He is the co-founder of Straight Ahead Ireland, which operates on a voluntary basis. Surgeons perform operations on a pro bono basis. They change the lives of children who might otherwise have to wait longer for treatment or surgery. They do this selflessly and give up their personal time. The operations are conducted on weekends and Christmas during down times in theatres in Our Lady's Hospital in Crumlin. Mr. Kiely and the Straight Ahead team are fighting a battle against waiting lists which is not theirs to fight.
Does the Minister agree that a new approach is needed in the field of recruitment and that the current recruitment process is not working at the pace or rate which is required? When will Mr. Kiely be replaced? Will his list be addressed in Tallaght hospital or off site in a different hospital? When will the young mother of three to whom I referred be accommodated for her surgery, along with the approximately 70 other patients still on the waiting list?