Ireland
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State 'has failed' vulnerable children, says Donnelly

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly says that the “State has failed” the most medically vulnerable children in the country, as Taoiseach offers to meet with advocacy groups impacted by spinal surgery controversy.

Late last week, patient groups who represent children with spina bifida and scoliosis said that families impacted could boycott the upcoming HSE review of the safety concerns.

This review, set to be carried out by Liverpool-based expert Selvadurai Nayagam, is being carried out to examine the post-operative outcomes of children with spinal conditions carried out by a surgeon at Temple Street hospital.

Asked by Social Democrat TD Róisin Shortall if the State failed the children, Mr Donnelly said: “Has the State failed these children? Yes, the State has failed these children and the State been failing these children for years.”

Mr Varadkar said that he is keen to meet with all of the advocacy groups and to take any of their suggestions on board.

The health minister also said that patients, families, and advocacy groups would be given opportunities to engage with Mr Nayagam, adding that there is “full scope” for him to extend the terms of reference of the wider external review.

Mr Donnelly said that he first became aware of two patient safety incidents in Temple Street hospital in November. 

He added that his department first became aware of the internal clinical review of spina bifida surgery outcomes at Temple Street hospital shortly after.

The minister said confidence cannot be restored in Children’s Health Ireland without a “truly independent” review. Picture: Niall Carson/PA 
The minister said confidence cannot be restored in Children’s Health Ireland without a “truly independent” review. Picture: Niall Carson/PA 

The health minister said that he became aware of non-CE spring implants used in three surgeries last August. 

He added that an external review is now underway into the use of these springs.

“This investigation needs to establish all the facts, in the end-to-end process, around how these springs came to be procured and ultimately used in surgeries.

“This is a very serious matter, and while there is some information circulating, we must await the outcome of the investigation before we can draw conclusions based on the full facts. 

"I have asked for this investigation to be completed as quickly as possible.”

Mr Donnelly acknowledged the “intense distress and anxiety” caused by the incidents to both the patients as well as their parents and families.

 Mr Donnelly said that he first became aware of two patient safety incidents in Temple Street hospital in November. 
Mr Donnelly said that he first became aware of two patient safety incidents in Temple Street hospital in November. 

“These young people and families already have so much to deal with in terms of their medical condition, and I am acutely aware of the added stress and worry this situation is bringing for them,” Mr Donnelly said.

In particular, Mr Donnelly gave his condolences to the family of Dollceanna Carter, a 10-year-old girl who died following multiple operations for spinal surgery.

“Nobody who has seen the photographs of Dollceanna and heard her family speak about her, can doubt the incredible loss suffered by all those who loved this beautiful child,” Mr Donnelly said.

Sinn Féin’s health spokesperson, David Cullinane, said that at the “heart of this scandal are 19 children who have been traumatised, harmed, and wronged”.

“This crisis goes far beyond just the surgical procedures in question. 

"The failure of the State to properly care for and meet the needs of these children includes pre and aftercare, follow-up care, and extremely long waiting lists which allow conditions to get worse and further complications to arise,” Mr Cullinane said.

He added that confidence cannot be restored in Children’s Health Ireland without a “truly independent” review.