Children's Health Ireland ignored Ombudsman request on delayed operation for child with scoliosis

Children's Health Ireland (CHI) ignored appeals from the Ombudsman for Children's Office (OCO) for information concerning a sick child whose parents had raised concerns about their care.

The child, who’s living with cerebral palsy, dysplasia and neuromuscular scoliosis, was initially told by CHI to expect spinal fusion surgery in 2016 – but the operation didn't take place until 2021.

It was while waiting for this operation, as the child’s health deteriorated, that their parents complained to the Ombudsman. The OCO published a summary of its findings in June this year without disclosing that CHI had been unresponsive to its initial enquiries.

The Ombudsman found that CHI had failed to adequately communicate with the child and their father over a four-year period, further finding that the parent’s complaint wasn’t handled properly.

‘CHI ignored this statutory request for information’

In May 2020, with no operation in sight, the child’s father wrote to Children’s Health Ireland asking for a review of their case. CHI’s then clinical director the following month responded in writing.

The clinical director apologised for any distress caused by the delay in care but added that CHI still couldn’t confirm a date for the surgery.

The father then complained to the Ombudsman that the hospital had failed to address concerns about his child’s care. He also claimed that CHI Temple Street had both poorly planned and poorly communicated around the child’s medical needs.

The OCO wrote to CHI in July requesting clarification for the delay in surgery, as well as an outline of all communication between the child’s father and CHI between 2016 and 2020.

The OCO also asked CHI to explain how it intended to provide the surgery and whether treatment abroad could be considered.

CHI’s response in July 2020 didn’t include sufficient information, resulting in OCO sending further correspondence seeking clarification the following month.

CHI ignored this statutory request for information.

OCO director of investigations Nuala Ward in October 2020 was forced to write directly to CHI chief executive Eilísh Hardiman in relation to the child’s case.

A response ultimately given by CHI in November 2020 resulted in OCO determining that a statutory investigation was appropriate.

OCO in July 2021 wrote to CHI to inform the organisation that it was beginning an official statutory investigation.

CHI and the OCO have been contacted for comment.

The Ditch editors

The Ditch editors