February 15, 2024
Children deserve better; Sinn Féin sets out plan for scoliosis waiting list scandal – David Cullinane TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health, David Cullinane TD, has called on the Government to address the scandal of growing waiting lists for children with scoliosis and spina bifida by engaging with, listening to, and acting on the concerns of parents, advocates, and clinicians.

Teachta Cullinane was commenting as he launched Sinn Féin’s plan for scoliosis and spina bifida waiting lists, which was developed with parents of these children and their advocates. The party has tabled the motion for debate in the Dáil next Tuesday.

The TD for Waterford said that children deserve better, but that the Government had failed to meet the promise made by Minister Simon Harris in 2017 that no child will be left waiting longer than four months for surgery. Waiting lists for scoliosis-related surgery are now worse than they were when Minister Harris gave that commitment.

Teachta Cullinane said:

“Next Tuesday the Dáil will debate a motion which sets out a plan to tackle surgical waiting lists for children with scoliosis and spina bifida. We have engaged with parents of children with scoliosis and spina bifida and their advocates to develop this plan over the last few weeks. The motion we are proposing contains the very reasonable asks of these parents and advocates.

“The scandal of long waiting lists for children with scoliosis and spina bifida is a long-running tragedy. These children deserve better. Seven years ago, Minister Simon Harris promised that no child would be waiting longer than four months for surgery.

“The fact is there are more children on scoliosis-related waiting lists now than when Minister Harris gave that commitment. Three quarters of children are waiting longer than four months for orthopaedic surgeries.

“Parents and advocates want a comprehensive, transparent, structured programme of work to be carried out by an independent taskforce which includes them, and clinicians, in its reporting process. That is the main ask of our motion next Tuesday.

“The taskforce must be transparent, independent of CHI management, and must implement a plan that includes the full suite of care from pre-op to post-op, transitional care, specialist rehabilitation, and full and appropriate access to community services.

“There is also an obligation on the Government, both moral and under Sláintecare, to ensure that children with complex medical needs are seen and treated on the basis of clinical need, and not the ability to pay. Government must deliver an equitable service that is in line with international best practice.

“The motion also calls on the Government to resource and expand the paediatric orthopaedic elective care centre at the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Cappagh, and to deliver a centre for elective paediatric urology services.

“The new Children’s Hospital will be essential for tackling these waiting lists, when it is eventually open. That is part of why the Children’s Hospital saga is so frustrating. There is still major uncertainty about the timeframe for the hospital being open, and that by the time it is, many of the children it was intended for will have aged out of paediatrics.

“Promises have been made and broken time and again. Children need the Government to increase domestic capacity, such as at Cappagh, and make full use of international options. Children with spina bifida need an elective paediatric urology centre. The new Children’s Hospital will not be a silver bullet, and children cannot wait for the new hospital. There is an urgency to this and all options must be on the table.

“Our motion for Tuesday sets out exactly how Sinn Féin, in cooperation with parents, advocates, and clinicians, would implement change. We would work tirelessly to improve health and social care services for children in need of urgent intervention.”

Sinn Féin’s motion can be read here.

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