Tuesday, 19 October 2021

Questions (747)

Alan Kelly

Question:

747. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Health the number of children that are waiting for scoliosis procedures by county in tabular form. [50508/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

I sincerely regret that children can experience a long waiting time for hospital appointments and treatment, and I remain conscious of the burden that this places on them and their families.

My priority as Minister for Health, and that of this Government, is to improve waiting times for all patients accessing hospital treatment, and reducing the paediatric waiting list for orthopaedic procedures remains a priority within that.

My Department, the HSE and the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) are working on a Multi Annual Waiting List Plan to address waiting lists and bring them in line with Sláintecare targets over the coming years. This process will be overseen by a Ministerial Taskforce chaired by the Secretary General of my Department and including representatives from the HSE and National Treatment Purchase Fund.  It will take the learnings from the achievements of the Vaccine Taskforce to inform the plan.   

An additional €250 million is being provided in Budget 2022 to improve access to care across the health system.

It is recognised that waiting times for scheduled appointments and procedures have been impacted in the last nineteen months as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic and more recently as a result of the ransomware attack.

The cyberattack in May 2021 in particular, caused significant disruption to the orthopaedic service and all services across the Children’s Health Ireland Hospital Group.  Children's Health Ireland advise that without access to a patient’s full history and previous diagnostic investigations, it was not considered safe to proceed without all electronic support systems in place. This impacted patients with complex needs in particular, and restricted the patient cohort that could safely proceed with surgery during this time.

Most systems are now back up and running across CHI sites, but back-loading of information is ongoing, and this continues to have an impact on waiting lists and the number of surgeries completed.

Despite the impact of the pandemic and the cyberattack Children’s Health Ireland advise that as of the end of September 2021, 266 spinal surgeries had been carried out which is an increase of 41 compared to the same period last year.

CHI remain committed to increasing activity levels and examining innovative methods to improve access to all specialities. For example, additional theatre sessions are being held in Cappagh National Orthopaedic Hospital, for non-complex, age-appropriate orthopaedic patients.

CHI also continues to develop the Advanced Clinical Triage clinic model in City West. Active Clinical Triage is a system which has been adapted for use within the paediatric orthopaedic unit at CHI Crumlin and its purpose is to reduce the overall orthopaedics out-patient waiting list, starting with the longest waiting clinically appropriate referrals.

A new Orthopaedic Consultant with a special interest in neuromuscular conditions started in Temple Street in September which should also enable the use of additional theatre capacity and support additional capacity as part of the Cappagh Kids programme.

Officials in the Department of Health remain in regular contact with CHI regarding scoliosis services. CHI have advised that all patients with a diagnosis of scoliosis require a pre-operative work-up prior to spinal surgery, including multiple diagnostic investigations and review by a multi-disciplinary team. The plan of care which is implemented for each patient is tailored to best meet the patient's clinical requirements. It is the responsibility of the treating Consultant to clinically prioritise patients for surgery on the waiting list.

In relation to the specific issue raised by the Deputy, as this relates to operational matters, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the Deputy directly, as soon as possible.