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CHI CEO says HSE will find out why 'no one' stopped unapproved springs being put in children

THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE of Children’s Health Ireland is to tell TDs at an Oireachtas health committee today that CHI staff are “distraught” over the death of a child that was included in a review into spinal surgeries carried out at Temple Street on children with spina bifida. 

In an opening statement that Eilish Hardiman has provided to the committee members ahead of time, Hardiman states that the use of unapproved non-medical grade devices (meaning springs) in children’s surgeries is “truly shocking” and “unprecedented” . 

“It is simply not done,” Hardiman says in her statement, adding “no approval was granted, and none would be”. 

She added that while innovative approaches to care are sometimes considered on one-off compassionate grounds, it is “unheard of” for unapproved devices to be used. 

Hardiamn said that the implementation of these devices into three children is the subject of a serious incident investigation, which will examine processes within the hospital, including the procurement and custody of these devices, and why “at no stage, did anyone say stop”. 

eilish hardiman Eilish Hardiman, CHI CEO.

Hardiman’s statement explains that over the course of last summer, a higher rate of kyphectomy procedures were carried out on children in CHI Temple Street by its multi-disciplinary team, thanks to a funding boost from the Government aimed to cut down waiting times. 

Kyphectomy procedures are highly complex surgeries carried out on children with spina bifida, that involve the insertion of medical rods into the patient’s spine to correct curvature. 

These operations, Hardiman states, are “high risk, with high postoperative complication rates”. 

Concerns were first raised about the outcomes of patients undergoing these surgeries last summer by a member of the team responsible for the children’s care, following two serious incidents. 

They were noticing children having to return to the operating theatre more than usual, and a seemingly higher rate of postoperative infections. 

A review into these surgeries was commenced last November following two serious incidents. At this point, Hardiman states, the clinician who had been carrying them out paused the practice – a decision that CHI supported. 

Two reviews have now been published by CHI that involved the participation of 19 families and their children, who underwent these surgeries. They do not deal with the issue of unauthorised devices being implanted into children, or how these devices were procured. 

A new investigation into the matter is now being conducted by an external expert who was commissioned by the HSE. 

Advocacy groups working with the families have called for further consultation with them and an expansion of the terms of this fresh investigation. They have also said that it should not be taking place under the governance of the HSE. 

Hardiman has stated that the clinician who carried out the surgeries under investigation is now subject to Irish Medical Council and human resources processes. 

She will also assure TDs that the children who underwent these surgeries have now been clinically reviewed, and have a dedicated care pathway that is being followed. 

Hardiman’s statement apologises for “poor communications” on the part of CHI over the course of the last week. 

It also states that, at large, CHI continues to deliver “excellent care to children and young people everyday” while dealing with “outdated and inadequate infrastructure”. 

On the current waiting times for children’s spinal surgery she states that last year CHI and the national orthopedic hospital cappagh had completed 509 procedures, representing a 47% increase compared to the previous year, meaning that 162 more children had spinal surgery. 

“There has also been a 57% increase in children added to our spinal surgery waiting list. We are doing all we can to reduce waiting times and will continue to do so,” she adds. 

This week in the Dáil, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said that she had seen a letter that “seems to confirm” that CHI was carrying out meetings on complications in children’s spinal surgeries back in 2020. 

She stated that the letter shows that the techniques that were used by a clinician who is under investigation now were questioned three years ago, and that “the head of Children’s Health Ireland was involved in these matters and was even asked by surgeons for guidance on the use of these techniques”.

Varadkar, in reply to McDonald, said he has also read the letter, and that “it does put a new complexion on this”. 

“I don’t know if it is genuine. I don’t know if it was ever actually sent, I don’t know if it was received, I don’t know if it was acknowledged and I don’t think you know these things either,” he added. 

CHI has since put out a statement that said it has no record of receiving the letter that is purported to have been sent to its CEO on the use of non-medical grade devices in children’s surgeries.