Treatment abroad must be re-introduced for children awaiting spinal surgery, says SF health spokesman

David Cullinane says it is ‘infuriating’ for waiting families that capacity has now been reduced due to crisis

The re-introduction of treatment abroad for children in need of complex spinal surgery is needed given the cessation of procedures at Temple Street Hospital in Dublin, the Sinn Féin spokesman on health has said.

“We had a crisis anyway in terms of wait times and, as I understand it, Crumlin is the only hospital now that is providing the service,” David Cullinane told reporters at a press conference in Dublin.

“It is ironic and disappointing that, finally, the fifth operating theatre in Temple Street is to open in a few weeks’ time but won’t perform spinal fusion surgeries.

“It is just infuriating for families, I would imagine, that at long last this capacity comes, but now we have this problem,” he said.


Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, is to answer questions in the Dáil on Tuesday on the controversy over complex spinal surgeries at Temple Street Hospital in Dublin.

The controversy erupted earlier this week when it emerged that a review of the treatment of 17 children with spina bifida operated on at the hospital by one consultant found that a high proportion required further unplanned surgery.

One of the children died following multiple procedures while others suffered serious post-operative complications. It has also emerged that unauthorised medical implants were used on some patients.

The surgeon concerned is no longer carrying out the procedures and a referral has been made to the Irish Medical Council about the matter. The crisis has led to the cessation of such procedures at the hospital, which has come as a massive blow to families who have been waiting for access to the treatment.

As well as the resumption of treatment abroad for such patients, Mr Cullinane said additional surgeons should be recruited but this would take time. The children and the families have been left in a very difficult situation, he said.

He would be seeking answers from Mr Donnelly about such matters as timelines and time frames concerning the crisis but his primary concern, he said, was that the children and their families were getting the support they needed.

He was anxious not to comment on matters until more was known, given the position of the families who have been “traumatised” by what has happened.

“The obvious questions [for Mr Donnelly] will be around accountability and transparency in relation to what happened, and supports for the children, but what do we do now?”

He was, he said, very conscious that anything he might say was in the context of families who had received awful news. He said he will seek answers and see where that leads.

“But the three issues for me are supports for the families and the children, full transparency, and then figuring out what we do now, including treatment abroad.”

There was no choice but to go back to treatment abroad, he said, and to see how quickly additional consultants and surgeons could be recruited.

Complex spinal surgeries at Temple Street Hospital have been paused now for more than a year. The report says work has begun on transferring complex patients to other surgeons in CHI. Some children may be transferred for treatment to other countries.

Colm Keena

Colm Keena

Colm Keena is an Irish Times journalist. He was previously legal-affairs correspondent and public-affairs correspondent