Dáil Éireann - Volume 494 - 08 October, 1998

Written Answers. - Hospital Waiting Lists.

26. Proinsias De Rossa asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of children awaiting paediatric cardiology and cardiac surgery and the average waiting time for treatment; the number of children who have been unable to receive treatment at home and who have been sent abroad for treatment; if his attention has been drawn to the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11 who suffered from AVSD, had to wait several months for an operation and [1568] died shortly after surgery and whose parents believe that the long delay contributed to his death; the steps, if any, he is taking to prevent similar delays in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18848/98]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen): Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin, serves as the national referral centre for paediatric heart disease. According to figures recently submitted to the Department the hospital currently has 13 patients waiting between three to six months, 56 patients waiting over six months for cardiac surgery and 47 patients waiting over six months for cardiology.

With regard to waiting times emergency cases are attended to immediately and the average waiting time for routine cases is up to 18 months for cardiac surgery and three months for cardiology.

Under the 1997 Cardiac Surgery Waiting List Initiative a sum of £500,000 was allocated to the hospital for the purpose of alleviating the waiting list pressures. The hospital's proposal, agreed with my Department, was to utilise this additional funding to provide the following: increased cardiology out-patient department activity with additional echocardiographs and electrocardiographs; the provision of four additional ICU beds; an additional training programme for ICU nurses; and 18 cardiac procedures to be purchased on a contract basis in the UK.

This year under the same initiative an increased allocation of £878,550 was made to the hospital. This provided for additional staff, the purchase of 30 additional cardiac procedures in the UK and the continuation of the ICU nurse training course.

The development of enhanced paediatric cardiac surgery facilities is at an advanced stage. This development includes the provision of additional theatres and associated facilities and I recently granted approval to the hospital board to advertise for a design team for the development. In addition, the appointment of a consultant cardiologist and a consultant cardiothoracic surgeon has been approved by my Department and Comhairle na nOspidéal These measures will alleviate the pressures currently being experienced in the provision of this service.

I am aware of the individual case referred to by the Deputy and I would like to take this opportunity to extend my deepest sympathies to the family on their very sad loss. I assure the Deputy, however, that I have been in touch with the hospital to determine the circumstances of the case and I have been given every assurance that the waiting time for surgery was not a contributory factor in the most unfortunate death of the child.