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.
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic Children’s Health Ireland had to take measures to defer most scheduled care activity between March and May of this year. This decision was in line with the advice issued by the National Public Health Emergency Team in accordance with the advice of the World Health Organisation.
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 significantly impacted both available capacity and operational activity levels.
Despite these challenges, by 4th December, Children’s Health Ireland had carried out 304 scoliosis procedures, 150 of which were spinal fusions, 25 fewer than the same period last year. 154 other spinal procedures were carried out, 27 fewer than last year.
Children’s Health Ireland has advised my Department that as of 4th December, there were 120 patients on the spinal fusion waiting list, an increase of 21 patients compared to the start of the year.
There were 74 patients on the waiting list for other spinal procedures, which is a decrease of 10 patients since the start of 2020.
There were 68 patients on the Active Spinal waiting list over 4 months, of which 47 patients are waiting for spinal fusion surgery and 21 patients are waiting other spinal procedures.
Children’s Health Ireland is exploring initiatives to increase access to scoliosis services, such as transferring additional patients who meet the clinical criteria to the National Orthopaedic Hospital Cappagh for treatment and holding additional Orthopaedic Outpatient Clinics at Cappagh. Children’s Health Ireland is also working with the National Treatment Purchase Fund to source additional capacity in Private Hospitals.