Tallaght mother waiting two years for ‘urgent’ back surgery to cure agonising pain

By Mary Dennehy

A TALLAGHT mother has been left housebound and in chronic pain due to a two-year wait for ‘urgent’ back surgery at Tallaght Hospital, which has nearly 500 patients on its spinal orthopaedics waiting list.

Una Gannon Pluck (65) suffered a number of injuries when she fell down the stairs three years ago, injuries that included a broken vertebrae in her back and fractured bones at the base of the neck.

Una Gannon Pluck 12102017

In August 2015, Una, who is a mother-of-five from Castletymon, met with Tallaght Hospital’s consultant orthopaedic surgeon and was told that she was prioritised as ‘urgent’.

However, despite being deemed a priority and living in debilitating pain, Una, who also has osteoporosis, is still waiting more than two years later.

“I really don’t understand how they could leave somebody living in this pain,” Una told The Echo.

“I have been told that the bone in my back is basically crumbling and I’m worried that I may not be suitable for surgery any more due to the damage done over the past two years.

“When I met with the consultant in Tallaght Hospital I was told that if I didn’t go for the surgery I would end up in a wheelchair, does that not matter anymore?”

She added: “I don’t go out, I’m basically housebound.

“When I get up in the morning I’m as straight as a pin and there’s no pain but within two hours I’m bending over and by lunch-time I’m back in bed and in constant pain for the rest of the day.

“I use a morphine patch and a hot-water bottle – which has the skin on my back destroyed, as I need to use a hot-water bottle so much.

“My quality of life is dreadful. I try to do things and have some sort of normality, but the more I do, the more I am bent over in agony.

“My back cannot hold the weight of my body and the pain is getting worse every day. I need help.”

Una has received some communication from the orthopaedic consultant, who told her in a letter dated October 2016 that he “has not forgotten” about her.

In the letter, seen by The Echo, the consultant wrote: “I am aware of the impact that the pain is having on your ability to live as normal a life as you would wish.

“Unfortunately due to many decades of inadequate resourcing both in terms of capital and consultant appointments in the spinal service nationally, we are reduced to providing a fire-brigade service.

“Much of my limited theatre access is taken up attending to neurological emergencies and fractures.

“As such, ‘elective’ procedures tend to take a backseat to these fractures and neurological emergencies.”

The consultant continued: “I am sorry if you find this response unsatisfactory but it is the honest one.”

Tallaght Hospital is the only provider of spinal services in the Dublin Midlands Group, which includes six hospitals.

Currently the hospital has 491 patients on its spinal orthopaedics list awaiting in-patient or day-case procedures, which are worked through by three spinal consultants.

A spokesperson for Tallaght Hospital said: “Tallaght Hospital strives to provide the highest standard of care to patients at all times. We cannot comment on individual patients but do apologise to the patient involved.

“We regret the length of time that patients have to wait for surgery and acknowledge the pain and impact this has on their lives.

“As the only provider of spinal services in the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group, the waiting lists for spinal surgery reflect the demand for services and the growing population of the catchment area served by the hospital.”

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