Crumlin hospital scoliosis theatre to open in April, says Harris

Minister repeats he is ‘ashamed’ by RTÉ disclosures on waiting lists

The RTÉ Investigates: Living on the List documentary reveals the number of patients waiting for operations or medical procedures is much higher than the numbers on the waiting lists published by the National Treatment Purchase Fund. Video: RTÉ

 

The new theatre to treat scoliosis at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin will open in April, Minister for Health Simon Harris has said.

He said 194 spinal procedures would be carried out, significantly more than last year.

“At the end of this month, I will receive from the HSE and the children’s hospital group an action plan for scoliosis and will engage with all parties and advocacy groups on the issue,’’ he added.

By June, there would be additional orthopaedic post filled in Crumlin, he said.

Mr Harris was speaking in the Dáil after a meeting with the hospital’s chief executive and other officials.

He was responding to Opposition TDs who raised Monday night’s RTÉ television programme Living On The list, which highlighted hospital waiting lists.

Mr Harris said more than 50 additional children and teenagers with scoliosis were treated with funding made available from the winter initiative.

But he recognised this had not been enough for children featured in the programme.

“I said I was ashamed and that wasn’t just a word . . . I meant it,’’ he added. “It is simply wrong.’’

He said it was not good enough for him just to say he was ashamed.

‘Difficult to watch’

Earlier, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the Government could not stand over the waiting lists for medical treatment revealed on the programme.

“I found it difficult to watch the programme, but it is very necessary that these programmes and people’s stories in 2017 be heard,’’ he added.

He said the Minister for Health’s function, on the Government’s behalf, was to set the overall policy and strategy and provide funding.

Mr Kenny said the big question relating to scoliosis treatment was the lack of theatre capacity.

He added €3 million was found to provide for a theatre in Crumlin hospital in Dublin but it was still not open.

The Taoiseach said €900 million more had gone into the health system this year compared with last year.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the programme had revealed very deep suffering among men, women and children across the country because of the lack of funding and strategies to address waiting lists.

“We saw the human stories behind the figures and they were quite harrowing, particularly in the case of young children with scoliosis,’’ he added.

“The programme was a shameful and disgraceful illustration of how those children were failed.’’

Mr Martin said the national treatment purchase fund was mobilised by the then minister for health, Senator James Reilly, in 2012. While it was not the solution to everything, it had dramatically reduced waiting times, he added.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said it appeared more than 80,000 patients had been excluded from the official figures and, in addition, 81,000 others were on waiting lists. Some were in great difficulties, he said.

“The total is twice the capacity of Croke Park, ’’ he added. “God knows how many more are waiting to see consultants.’’

Mr Adams said it was another example of a health service in a state of perpetual crisis.

Labour leader Brendan Howlin said the individual harrowing tales featured set out by the programme revealed a deep malaise at the heart of the national health service.

“The idea that governments going back to 2002 were misled about the state of our waiting list is troubling,’’ he added.