Little relief for children in pain as consultant post remains vacant

Mairead O'Leary Woulfe, with husband Micheal and daughters Leah (10) and Ellie (7).

CHILDREN suffering from chronic pain are not getting adequate care because Ireland has no paediatric pain consultant.

Last week the Limerick Post revealed how two young girls from Bruff have been waiting in agony for six months to see a paediatric pain consultant, following the resignation of the country’s only paediatric pain consultant.

Ten-year-old Leah O’Leary Woulfe and her seven-year-old sister Ellie have been diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and they have been unable to access appropriate pain relief since Dr Kevin Mc Carthy resigned from his consultancy last December

It has now emerged that the highly specialised position has yet to be advertised, six months after Dr McCarthy’s departure.

Dr McCarthy said he resigned due to a lack of support for the role.

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The girls’ mother Mairead O’Leary Woulfe said that following Dr McCarthy’s resignation, she was promised a care plan for her children, but that this has not happened.

“Families have been left in limbo because there is no pain consultant and nobody with authority to adjust pain medication for patients”, she said.

A plan for a Northern Ireland-based pain consultant to provide supports to colleagues in the Republic has not alleviated the situation, she said.

Michael Woulfe said their children’s physiotherapy and hydrotherapy sessions, which are critical to their treatment, were cancelled, due to Covid-19 restrictions.

“We are left in limbo. All the things that were working for our children, like hydrotherapy is all gone. That would help in terms of managing their pain.”

Pamela Lynam, co-founder of the Complex Pain Management advocacy group, confirmed the consultant’s position in the south has not been advertised.

“It was meant to go to a committee for approval on March 20 and then to be advertised in April, but then COVID happened, and that’s why I think it hasn’t happened.”

Ms Lynam, whose daughter Amy (13) suffers from chronic pain from a sports injury, explained that “even when that’s advertised, you could be three to five years before anybody is in that position”.

She claimed a proposed plan for a Belfast-based consultant to help with cases in the interim “had not happened”.

“It’s horrific. My daughter definitely needs to change her meds. Nothing is working. But there is nobody to help.”

“Amy was seen last June, so we’re nearly a year without being seen, and left in chronic pain.”

“Adult pain specialists won’t see children until they’re 18. They won’t take a referral before they are 16, and it takes two years to get seen.”

“Nobody will change their medication until they are seen, which is understandable, but it’s not fair on the kids that are in pain.”

A HSE source confirmed the consultant’s position “hasn’t been advertised as yet”.

Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) told the Limerick Post it “cannot comment on contracts of employment, or on individual cases”.

A statement sent to this newspaper read: “CHI is aware that the current situation regarding the Paediatric Complex Pain Management Service is a cause of much anxiety and upset for parents and children.”

“If a parent is concerned or worried about child’s health they should contact a member of their child’s medical team will be happy to discuss any aspect of a patient’s care directly with them or their family members.”

“We have written to all families whose children have been attending the complex pain management service in Crumlin or Temple Street to give them an update and contact numbers should they need clinical related advice for their child”.

CHI said the position left vacant following Dr McCarthy’s resignation “is a highly specialised position” to fill.

“As an interim measure, we have secured the services of Consultant Anaesthesiologist in Northern Ireland who specialises in both Paediatric and Adult Complex Pain Management who is assisting CHI colleagues in continuing the Paediatric Complex Pain Management Service for patients until these posts commence.”