Thursday, 29 April 2021
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
I thank the Deputies for submitting this Topical Issue, which I am responding to on behalf of the Minister, Deputy Stephen Donnelly, and giving me the opportunity to provide an update to the House on waiting lists in National Orthopaedic Hospital Cappagh.
Regarding paediatric orthopaedic waiting times, there has been an increased investment in paediatric orthopaedics and scoliosis services in recent years, which has improved access to surgery and outpatient appointments. In 2018, Children's Health Ireland, CHI, was provided with an additional €9 million to address paediatric orthopaedic waiting lists, including the provision of scoliosis services. This funding supported the recruitment of approximately 60 whole-time equivalents in 2018 and 2019 to enable the expansion of paediatric orthopaedic services, including scoliosis services. The posts related to multidisciplinary teams at diagnosis, pre-assessment, during surgery in theatre and post-operative care.
In general, waiting times for scheduled appointments and procedures have been impacted in the past year as a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Elective hospital care was further curtailed for the first quarter of 2021 in line with the rapid increase in Covid-19 hospital admissions, with only critical time-dependent elective procedures undertaken. This has affected activity in CHI.
Regarding orthopaedics, I am advised that Children's Health Ireland is expanding its activity in Cappagh hospital and is also running additional orthopaedic clinics in Citywest using a new active clinical triage model that is reducing the number of children waiting the longest for appointments. Children's Health Ireland proactively continues to work with the HSE and my Department to reduce waiting times for patients attending the scoliosis service.
I am advised that funding has been provided for additional paediatric orthopaedic clinics at Cappagh orthopaedic hospital and that additional outpatient clinics commenced on the 17 February. I am further advised that additional theatre capacity for day case surgery at Cappagh commenced on 26 April, which should have a significant positive impact through reducing long waiting times for general orthopaedic patients in addition to scoliosis patients.
The Deputies might wish to note that, in January, the HSE added for development a €1.65 million project of an outpatient paediatric clinic to the capital programme, which will be considered for progression subject to availability of funding next year. It is expected that this will further increase Cappagh hospital's capacity for paediatric orthopaedic services.