I sincerely regret that children can experience a long waiting time for treatment for scoliosis, and I am conscious of the burden that this places on them and their families. This Government’s priority is to improve waiting times for all patients accessing hospital treatment across all specialties, including Scoliosis.
It is recognised that waiting times for scheduled appointments and procedures have been impacted as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and as a result of the deferral of elective scheduled care activity in March, April and May of 2020, and since 2nd January 2021.
It is of note that key social distancing measures and Infection Prevention and Control requirements, such as two-metre distancing, have a material impact on the available physical space to deliver all hospital services, including scoliosis procedures, and this has had a significant impact on both available capacity and operational activity levels.
Despite the challenges resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic last year, by 31st December 2020 Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) had carried out 322 scoliosis procedures, a decrease in activity of 16% compared with 2019.
Children’s Health Ireland has advised that under the current HSE guidelines, they have reduced the number of procedures to urgent and those that are time sensitive. Children’s Health Ireland has advised that they are working with the National Orthopaedic Hospital Cappagh to expand orthopaedic capacity. This is expected to have a positive impact on orthopaedic long waiting patients, including reductions in waiting times for children with scoliosis. CHI is also running additional orthopaedic clinics in City West, using a new active clinical triage model, which is reducing the number of children waiting the longest for appointments.
Representatives of CHI, the Orthopaedic Spinal Team and the Advocacy Groups continue to meet as part of the Co-Design framework on a quarterly basis to work on providing solutions for patients in the spinal service.
In relation to the specific query raised regarding the number of children currently waiting less than 4, 4 to 8 and more than 8 months, respectively in Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin and Temple Street Children’s University Hospital at the end of February 2021, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the Deputy directly, as soon as possible.