Tuesday, 27 July 2021
Department of Health
Hospital Waiting Lists
2442. To ask the Minister for Health the efforts he has taken to date to address the long waiting list for children with scoliosis seeking surgery; the impact Covid-19 has had on waiting lists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28190/21]
I sincerely regret that children can experience a long waiting time for hospital appointments and treatment, and I remain conscious of the burden that this places on them and their families.
It is recognised that progress that was being made in waiting times for hospital appointments, procedures, and services, has been impacted since March 2020 as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and more recently by the cyber-attack on the HSE on 14 May. This attack has impacted all acute hospitals and their services.
Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) has advised my Department that their systems have been significantly impacted by the attack and they are currently running a press and communication campaign to advise patients of the service disruption. Up to date information on current services is also provided on the Children’s Health Ireland website.
Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) continue to work with the HSE and National Treatment Purchase Fund to identify and support solutions to improve access to care, particularly in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic and the recent cyber-attack.
Despite the challenges resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic last year, by 31 December 2020 Children’s Health Ireland had carried out 322 scoliosis procedures, 163 of which were spinal fusions, and 159 other spinal procedures. Overall, scoliosis activity figures for 2020 were 16% lower than in the previous year, despite significant social distancing measures and Infection Prevention and Control requirements.
As a result of the cyber-attack, the most recent data available on scoliosis is from the 7th May 2021, when Children’s Health Ireland had carried out 73 Spinal Fusions, and 74 other spinal procedures, an overall increase of 44 procedures on the same period last year.
Children’s Health Ireland has advised that as of 7 May 2021, there were 118 patients on the spinal fusion waiting list (excluding suspensions), an increase of 10 patients compared to the end of May 2020. There were 72 patients on the waiting list for other spinal procedures (excluding suspensions), which is a decrease of 5 patients compared to the end of May 2020. These figures should be interpreted in the context of the curtailment of services in 2020 in line with social distancing measures and Infection Prevention and Control requirements
An additional €240 million has been provided in Budget 2021 for access to care, €210m of which has been allocated to the HSE and a further €30m to the NTPF. This is to be used to fund additional capacity to address the shortfall arising as a result of infection control measures taken in the context of COVID-19, as well as addressing backlogs in waiting lists.
My Department, the HSE and the NTPF are currently in the process of finalising a Multiannual Waiting List plan to address waiting lists and bring them in line with Sláintecare targets over the coming years.