The legal adviser for scoliosis support groups in Ireland, Raymond Bradley, has called for the immediate publication of all the details from the two reviews into scoliosis surgeries at Temple Street children’s hospital.
The details released on Monday were an amalgamation of only certain details from two reports, one internal and one external, he told RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland. The full reports needed to be released, not a synopsis or selected version, he said.
It was understandable that every parent of a child on the scoliosis waiting list would be concerned about when their surgery would go ahead and if they could trust the system in light of the disclosures, he said. It was of great concern that non-European Union certified medical devices had been inserted into a child in an Irish hospital, said Mr Bradley. It was extraordinary that no details of how that could have happened had been disclosed in the report released on Monday.
“The whole purpose of certification of medical devices is to protect the patients from harm. And how that was circumvented is not a matter to be brushed under the carpet, or to be ignored, or not to be disclosed in a report delivered to parents,” he said.
When asked if the delays in surgery had led to risks of complications for children, he said: “I’m not a medical or orthopaedic expert, but I do know that children who were initially contemplated for surgery because of the delay necessitated two consultant surgeons being available for that surgery, such was the complexity that they had developed due to that delay. And that in itself is fundamentally wrong.
“We as a nation have values. Our children should be uppermost in those values. For a hospital system to be unable to address in a timely manner the surgical requirement that results in an ongoing deterioration is absolutely unacceptable.”
Meanwhile, a Government Minister has said that children have been failed in their experience of surgery at Temple Street and steps must be taken to ensure it never happens again.
Charlie McConalogue, the Minister for Agriculture, told Morning Ireland that full informations should be provided to families about the issues that have arisen at the children’s hospital.
He added that the Government was “investing very significantly” to ensure that delays do not impact provision of vital spinal surgery.
“Obviously this is a really, really concerning and very, very disturbing for the families concerned and for the children who’ve been affected and is also raising lots of anxiety among those among families as well in relation to information,” he said.
He said it was “crucial” that the reviews are “completed quickly”.
Mr Cullinane told Newstalk Breakfast that questions need to be answered as quickly as possible through the external review that has been commissioned by the Health Service Executive (HSE). However, the question remained how had something like this been missed for so long, he said.
The consultant whose work at Temple Street children’s hospital is to be externally reviewed continued to carry out operations for months after concerns about their work first emerged, The Irish Times reported.
The HSE has commissioned a UK expert to review surgeries carried out by the consultant after an internal review identified “serious spinal surgical incidents” in the service, it said on Monday. One child died following multiple procedures and others suffered serious postoperative complications.
Patient safety concerns were first raised following a “particularly serious” surgical incident in July 2022, according to a report by Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) – the hospital group responsible for paediatric care nationally – with another following in September that year. From that month, staff began raising concerns about outcomes for patients who were operated on by the consultant.
The consultant ceased doing complex spinal surgery on children with spina bifida in November 2022, a HSE spokesman said.
“We have clinical governance arrangements in hospitals, obviously. And while of course I don’t want to apportion any blame at this point because we have to allow an external investigator to carry out those investigations as quickly as possible, I suppose I’m making a more broader point that that question is an obvious one and one that will have to be asked,” Mr Cullinane said.
“And all I can ask of the HSE at this point in time is to ensure that we have full open disclosure to all of those families and children affected by this. And whatever supports those families need, they need to be given as quickly as possible.”
Mr Cullinane added that there was a broader issue about the waiting times for scoliosis treatment, but this issue was different as it was calling into question procedures that had already been carried out. The pressures on the system had to be acknowledged, he said, but the temporary suspension of services at Temple Street meant there would be pressure on Crumlin and Cappagh hospitals.
“We know that back in 2017 and 2018 a clear commitment was given to children that no child would have to wait longer than four months for surgery. At that time, the former head of the HSE and the former minister for health, Simon Harris, put a plan in place and part of that plan was to allow for outsourcing of some procedures in specialist clinics in Germany and in England for some reason, and this was before Covid,” he said.
“That outsourcing has stopped and families and children were no longer given the option of having treatment abroad. And that’s not ideal.
“Of course, we all want to make sure and see that we have the capacity at home to treat patients. But I think given that we have a drop in capacity again and already there has been long wait times for children, I think that the issue of offering treatment abroad now has to be put on the table again very, very quickly.
“So obviously all of those capacity issues are very serious issues and have been for some time. It’s really important now that all of the facts are established as quickly as possible so that confidence can be restored into services.”