Surgeons to be flown in as part of latest bid to tackle lengthy delays for children with spinal issues

Donnelly intervenes directly with Children’s Health Ireland over difficulties experienced by families in obtaining their children’s patient records

Orthopaedic surgeons are to be flown in from overseas in the latest attempt to tackle lengthy delays for children requiring spinal operations.

Separately, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has intervened directly with Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) over difficulties experienced by families in obtaining their children’s patient records. This follows this week’s High Court case in which the parents of a six-year-old boy caught up in the Temple Street hospital spinal surgery controversy sought his medical records. Mr Justice Brian Cregan said it was “astounding” that the parents had to go to court to get the documents.

Asked whether the Minister was satisfied with the delays some patients are facing in accessing their records, a spokesperson said: “A number of patient advocacy groups advised that some of their members were experiencing delays in accessing their medical records. Patient groups have been advised that the Minister contacted the chairman of CHI, Prof Jim Browne, and made it clear that this issue of delays in accessing medical records needed to be addressed immediately.

“CHI committed to immediately improving its processes for managing requests for medical files, and has advised that they have put more resources into dealing with requests to expedite responses.”


A number of reviews are under way since it emerged that two serious incidents occurred in children undergoing spinal surgery at Temple Street hospital in Dublin. A surgeon has been referred to the Medical Council after a review found high complication rates linked to operations carried out on children with spina bifida.

Two patient groups are boycotting the reviews, and have called for a statutory inquiry into orthopaedic surgeries across CHI.

It has been previously proposed to send some children with spinal conditions abroad for treatment due to long waiting lists in the State, but this is not seen as a viable option for many due to the need for post-operative care and repeat procedures. Mr Donnelly has now asked the HSE to seek clinical expertise from abroad to help address waiting lists for paediatric orthopaedic services.

Meanwhile, the HSE has mandated that no child should wait longer than three weeks for the approval of aids and appliances.

“This is being reinforced across the health service, via a memo from the HSE chief executive, and applies to children with spina bifida, children with scoliosis who have recently had spinal surgery or are waiting for spinal surgery,” the spokesperson said. “The HSE is making arrangements to put in place a support link person in each of the nine community healthcare organisations across the country for children and young adults with spina bifida and scoliosis.”

Following the controversy at Temple Street a review of the operational model of care for children requiring orthopaedic surgery is under way. Mr Donnelly has met clinicians from CHI to get their views on the model of care, and has also met Prof Browne.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is a former heath editor of The Irish Times.