88 children waiting for scoliosis surgery over four months – Simon Harris

Number down by over 100 since September but Sinn Féin say some of those 88 waiting more than three years

The number of children with scoliosis waiting more than four months for surgery has dropped by more than 100 to 88, according to figures released by Minister for Health Simon Harris.

He told the Dáil that “while it is not good that anybody is waiting a long time there are 88 now and there were 182 last September” for surgery for scoliosis, a medical condition where the spine curves sideways.

The Minister said 177 surgeries had been performed in the first five months of the year and that 447 spinal procedures would be carried out this year compared to 371 last year and 224 in 2016.

Mr Harris added that two new consultants would be appointed in the fourth quarter of the year and the national action plan for scoliosis, written by clinicians, the children’s hospital group and advocacy groups, will be published on July 12th.


Sinn Féin health spokeswoman Louise O’Reilly who raised the issue, said some of the 88 children on the waiting list had been waiting in pain for more than three years. “They are not able to live a full life. They are in agony.”

She also called on the Minister to instruct officials to stop managed waiting lists “in an aggressive way” and to stop writing to parents to ask them if their child still requires surgery”.

Waiting list

Ms O’Reilly said “there is no prospect of them not needing surgery” but she said they were being given an “impossibly short timeframe” to reply and then were being taken off the waiting list.

“I sincerely hope that is not contributing to the reduction in the waiting list numbers because if it is, that is a shame on the Department and the HSE.”

Mr Harris said he had no evidence to suggest proper protocols and procedures were not being followed he had asked to make sure procedures were being properly followed.

The scoliosis waiting lists were highlighted in a programme on RTÉ’s Prime Time Investigates after which a number of commitments were made.

Ms O’Reilly said “those children received an apology from the Minister and others” following the programme. But she said “it’s not good enough just to say ‘sorry’. They need to know when they will get their surgery.

“They also need an acknowledgement that the targets are being missed in a substantial number of cases.”

The Minister said that was not a fair representation of what he had done and he insisted progress had been made.

“We are dramatically increasing the number of scoliosis operations being carried out in this country. We are not done and we are not there yet but we are significantly increasing it by any measure or metric.”

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times