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Govt has not delivered on spinal surgery promises


A government promise in 2017 that children would not have to wait more than four months for spinal surgeries has not been delivered, the Dáil has heard.

Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald told Leaders’ Questions that there are now more children waiting for scoliosis surgery than when the pledge was made.

Families have been badly let down and many children with life-limiting conditions have very long waits for surgery, she said.

Every treatment must now be put on the table to end what she said was the scandal of children waiting for spinal surgery.

Yesterday, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly ordered a review to see if €19 million allocated for children’s spinal surgery is being appropriately used.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said problems around spinal surgery go back generations and he does not have adequate answers as to why it has not been fixed.

He pledged to do everything he could to resolve this problem, adding that he would work with the Opposition in good faith to make this happen.

However, both Government and Sinn Féin cannot agree how many children are waiting for this surgery.

Sinn Féin said the number is 327 while Government says that the waiting list figure is 231.

Labour leader Ivana Bacik said that far too many children are still being failed in the State today.

Some parents are being driven to post social media videos of their children sobbing with pain through the night in a desperate bid to get healthcare, she said.

She said that the then minister for health Harris made a commitment in 2017 that no child would wait more than four months for surgery.

“Yet children are still waiting longer for scoliosis surgery now than when your Government took office,” she said.

Mental health services a ‘national disgrace’

Ms Bacik also said that almost one third of in-patient Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services beds were not operational in 2023 due to staff shortages, a fact she said was a “national disgrace.”

Yesterday the Children’s Rights Alliance gave the Government an ‘E’ grade for access to mental health.

She asked would the Taoiseach end the recruitment embargo to help address staff shortages.

In response, Mr Varadkar said Ireland was a very good place to raise a child, pointing to the very good maternity services.

However, he admitted that the Government could do more.

On the recruitment freeze, Mr Varadkar said there are 26000 more people working in the Health Service since this Government came into office.

“Last year, the total number of staff in the HSE increased by more a year than in many years, 8000 extra staff were recruited,” he said.

He said the HSE had to be stopped from taking money from one area and spending it in another.

Additional reporting Juliette Gash


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