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Spinal surgeries: Children’s Health Ireland to answer questions from committee

Main Points

  • The use of unapproved springs in complex spinal surgery carried out at Crumlin children’s hospital was unprecedented and “shocking”, Children’s Health Ireland will tell the Oireachtas Committee on Health from 1.30pm today.
  • The statement comes after a review last week found high levels of post-operative complications and infection in children undergoing spinal surgery at Temple Street children’s hospital, including two serious incidents and the death of one patient.
  • Spinal surgery at Temple Street children’s hospital is currently subject to an external review after earlier investigations found a high rate of complications in the work of one surgeon.
  • One consultant has been referred to the Medical Council, and the care of children on waiting lists is being transferred to Crumlin children’s hospital.
  • Children’s Health Ireland, which provides and manages hospital care for children across Ireland, will also say the group is “deeply sorry” that the children and their families did not get the care they deserved and will apologise “unreservedly for the harm that they endured”.

Children’s Health Ireland chief executive Eilísh Hardiman has apologized to the children and their families who were the subject of a clinical review of surgeries carried out at Temple Street Hospital.

Ms Hardiman told the Oireachtas Committee on Health that they were “deeply sorry” and “apologise unreservedly” to the families involved.

In her opening statement, she described the use of non-medical grade devices implanted in three children as a “shocking litany of events”.

It is “unheard of”, she suggested, that any clinicial wound use a non-medical grade device. “It is simply not done.

“No approval was granted and none would be granted for a non-medical grade devise to be implanted.

“Things happened at CHI in Temple Street that should not have happened. Decisions were made, certain procedures were carried out, children were subjected to higher than-expected unplanned return trips to theatre and, alarmingly unapproved, non-medical grade devices were implanted in three children.

“Without in any way seeking to qualify the apologies that we have given, it should be said that complex spinal surgery in Spina Bifida children, unfortunately, has high complication rates. However, in these cases the level of infection was above what would have been expected and is unacceptable.”

She added that since the end of 2022, Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) and the National Orthopaedic Hospital Cappagh (NOHC) had completed 509 spinal procedures.

This was a 47 per cent increase in activity compared with 2021, which equated to 162 more children who have had their spinal surgery.

There has also been a 57 per cent 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.

Welcome to our live coverage of the appearance of executives from Children’s Health Ireland before the Oireachtas Committee on Health today to answer questions about spinal surgery procedures carried out in Temple Street Hospital.

An independent investigation found 19 children with spina bifida suffered serious complications after they were operated on in the hospital. One child was readmitted to the operating theatre 33 times after her initial operation.

It also emerged in the course of those outside investigations that coiled springs, which were commercial rather than medical devices, were used in three patients with spina bifida.

Spinal surgery procedures at Temple Street hospital will now be reviewed by a UK-based surgeon Dr Selvadurai Nayagam.

“The primary focus of this external review will be the clinical care provided by an individual consultant based at CHI at Temple Street, who is currently not conducting surgeries, and in respect of whom a referral has been made to the Medical Council,” the HSE said in a statement on Monday.

The families of those involved have not yet committed to cooperating with the investigation as they believe it will focus on just one individual surgeon and not the culture in the hospital.

Committee chairman Sean Crowe told RTÉ's Morning Ireland on Thursday that members will be seeking answers as to what had happened to children who had undergone operations in the hospital.