A new orthopaedic theatre in Our Lady's Hospital, Crumlin, which has been lying idle for nearly a year, will be ready to open one day a week from the beginning of next month to allow for spinal surgery on children with scoliosis, it was confirmed yesterday.
A spokeswoman for the hospital said the first number of nurses to be recruited to allow the theatre to function will be available by April 7.
Scoliosis is a severe spinal condition which can deteriorate if not corrected, affecting a child's internal organs.
Children's Ombudsman Dr Niall Muldoon yesterday added his voice to warnings that the long waiting lists and delays for surgery are leaving children with severe physical and psychological effects.
In response, the hospital spokeswoman said yesterday that in order for the orthopaedic theatre to function for three days a week, additional nurses were needed and the aim was to have more recruited by July to allow this to go ahead.
She said last year Crumlin carried out 169 spinal surgery procedures of which 54 were spinal fusions, averaging three surgery procedures a week. Some 24 children in need of the surgery were outsourced to the private sector.
The Ombudsman's report 'Waiting on Scoliosis treatment: A children's rights issue' contained the emotional testimonies of children suffering from the condition.
One child called Jane said: "The whole waiting process made me very sad all the time, I didn't like leaving the house or looking in the mirror."
Another girl, Delilah, commented: "They had to move my organs to one side so that they could work on one part of my spine."
Speaking at the launch of the report, Dr Aoife Daly, a senior lecturer in law at the University of Liverpool, warned: "Our international human rights obligations mean that the State must take into account children's best interests as a primary consideration when weighing up competing budget allocation and spending priorities."
Families who are lobbying for improved care attended the launch including Claire Cahill and her son Darragh who was eventually operated on last November.
She said Darragh would suffer "life-long complications" as a result of having to wait so long for surgery and his lung function had been affected.
Health Minister Simon Harris said the HSE had committed that no child would wait longer than four months for such a procedure by the end of the year. This would bring Ireland in line with the NHS.