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Senator Rose Conway-Walsh takes the Minister to task over the human suffering of people awaiting Orthopaedic Surgery

1 March, 2017 - by Rose Conway-Walsh

Mayo Sinn Féin Senator, Rose Conway-Walsh called the Health Minister to the Seanad to ask what measures he is taking to tackle the waiting list for orthopaedic surgery and to highlight the human suffering of one of her constituents on the waiting list. Senator Conway-Walsh said:

"Minister, I thank you for coming before the Seanad today to enable me to demonstrate why it is absolutely vital that you do everything in your power to address the waiting list for orthopaedic surgery at Galway University Hospitals.We often hear the numbers of hundreds of thousands waiting for procedures and appointments at hospitals throughout the country but I want you to hear the case of just one individual in my constituency.

"His name is Neil McEleney.  He first underwent spinal surgery at UHG in November 2015.  This was a triple spinal fusion which consisted of eight screws, three rods and extensive bone grafting.  Two months later the screws split and broke two vertebrae which resulted in the screws pulling out.  He then had a second operation in February 2016.  This time the screws and plates were removed and more extensive hardware was used further up his spine.

"Unfortunately, he experienced severe pain for several months after the operation at which time a scan showed that the screws had pulled out of the vertebrae and four screws loosened further down the spine.

"The CT scan showed a haloing effect where the bone around the screws is being eroded with the constant movement.  Every time he moves the screws and frame moves and the four loose screws further down are causing frame movement. 

"The unimaginable pain Neil is experiencing every minute of every hour and every hour of every day can only be described as inhumane.

To complicate things further Neil has two underlying diseases, one is sarcoidosis which affects the lungs and muscles and has unfortunately gone into the pituitary gland which has in turn caused Addison’s disease.

"His consultants understand his operation has to be a multi-disciplinary approach involving respiratory, orthopaedic and endocrinology.

Neil, desperately needs a third operation as his spine is out of alignment.  This is called an osteotomy where basically a ‘v’ is cut out of the spinal column and the spine is either bent or broken to realign it and extensive screws and rods are fixed for two thirds of its length and anchored to the pelvis.

"His consultant at the time Mr Jadaan assisted by Mr Fergus and Mr John McCabe organised for Neil to have the surgery on 26th September 2016 

"He was admitted to UCHG on 25th September 2016 and put on a pre op IV drip due to the Addison’s and was advised that he would be first to the theatre on Monday morning at 7.30am.

"He was gowned and ready for surgery on the 26th but as there was no spinal cord monitor the surgery had to be cancelled.  Neil was discharged and sent home.

"Since then he has been waiting in desperation.  His own Endocrinologist has said he is in exquisite pain and he is concerned about the huge amounts of pain killers he has to take.

I quote his Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon when I say “This is major complex revision spinal surgery which is only performed in two centres in Ireland and the waiting lists for it are serious.  This is largely due to failure to provide funding at the necessary level for pathway of care commensurate with modern spine practice and has not been adequately addressed.”

"Galway University Hospitals are also awaiting appointment of further consultants. 

"Again I quote the Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon “I have patients waiting as long as 2013 for spinal surgery under my care.  I am not in a position to effect change in the pathway of care unless I get appropriate funding  to allow for a pathway of care that would not put this man at undue risk.”

"It’s very simple Minister, he does not have the resources to do his job.

"Can you please tell me today Minister how Neil can get the vital surgery he needs.  Last week Nial was sent to UCHG by his GP for a much needed CT scan.  He was hoping to being admitted due to his current state.  However, no CT scan was conducted and he was sent home at 12 midnight getting home at 3am.  

"Minister, Neil and his wife Kathleen were in A&E when you were in UCHG last week but neither of them had the strength to approach you as you passed by with your entourage.    You see, they just have nothing left – mentally, physically or emotionally.

"Minister, I am asking a simple question here today.  Neil, has been given several reasons for not being able to have this vital operation at UCHG including lack of staff, facilities and funding.

"He cannot wait in this excruciating pain indefinitely – can this operation be done in a different hospital i.e. the spinal unit at the mater hospital as a matter or urgency."

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