Fianna Fáil TD for Roscommon-Galway, Eugene Murphy, has highlighted the fact that many children with juvenile arthritis are left waiting in pain for up to three years due to a lack of rheumatology consultant posts in the country.
Deputy Murphy raised the issue with An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar during questions on promised legislation in the Dáil this week.
Speaking in the Dáil, Deputy Murphy said Juvenile arthritis is a serious problem in this country, with up to 1,500 young people suffering from it.
“The World Health Organisation recommends six rheumatologists for a population the size of Ireland’s, yet we only have two for the entire country. It has also stated that the waiting period should be no more than six weeks. In Ireland, it is three years,” Deputy Murphy said.
“Although there is no specific commitment to junior arthritis in the programme for Government, I ask the Taoiseach to give a commitment to deal with that issue as the financial aspect of the health budget improves, as hoped, because it causes much distress and harm to young people.”
The Taoiseach acknowledged that there are far too few consultant rheumatologists for a country of our size and young population. He said that the HSE is working on a proposal to increase the number of consultant rheumatologist posts and for that to be backed up by clinical nurse specialists and others. He noted that this would be considered for the service plan, 2019.
A recent parliamentary question tabled by Deputy Murphy in relation to the matter highlighted the fact that at the end of 2017 there were 880 children on the active waiting list for an outpatient rheumatology appointment for the Children’s Hospital Group, which is an increase of 37 per cent on the number from 2016. There were 109 children on the active waiting list for inpatient/day case procedures in 2017, which was an increase of 60 per cent on the number for 2016.
“More paediatric rheumatology consultant posts are needed as a matter of priority,” Deputy Murphy continued. “Many of these children are waiting for up three years. These children are being left in pain for years before they are treated. I have parents in my area of Roscommon-Galway who are heartbroken seeing their children crying with pain in their joints.
“Children with active arthritis run the risk of permanent joint damage, affecting their skeletal growth and they could face the risks of living with a long-term disability. This can be avoided with early and effective treatment and monitoring of the disease.”