South West Wales

Teenager's two year kidney surgery wait a 'scandal'

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Media captionEthan said he is often in pain and is unable to take part in some activities with friends

A teenager's two and a half year wait for kidney surgery is "totally unacceptable", his parents have said.

Ethan Matthews, 14, from Burry Port, Carmarthenshire, was told in December 2014 that he needed to have a non-functioning kidney removed.

He was put on an urgent waiting list at Cardiff's University Hospital of Wales (UHW) but is yet to have surgery.

Cardiff and Vale University Health Board said it was not always possible to operate at a scheduled time.

Ethan's parents Robert and Kerry Matthews questioned the delay in their son's treatment and received a letter from a UHW consultant paediatrician surgeon in October 2015 confirming he was on an "urgent waiting list for surgery".

The operation was due to take place in January this year, but had to be cancelled because Ethan had a urine infection.

His parents said they had heard "nothing since" and are worried Ethan's health problems will impact on his education.

The latest Welsh Government figures on paediatric surgery waiting times, from referral to the start of treatment, show:

  • 77% of children waited up to 26 weeks
  • 13% waited 26 weeks to 36 weeks
  • 10% waited over 36 weeks
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Media captionKerry Matthews said it was hard seeing her son not being able to do the same things as other teenagers

Ethan is fitted with a tract in his side after suffering from a build up of fluid and visits his GP up to three times a week to have his dressing changed.

He is unable to play contact sports or go swimming with his friends.

Mrs Matthews told BBC's Wales Today programme: "To see your son waiting this long, it's just so hard.

"He can't do things other teenage boys can do."

Mr Matthews said: "It's having a major impact on his life.

"We constantly ring Cardiff, we've visited our GPs and they've written a letter, we've asked our AM to write a letter and we keep getting the same reply.

"We've just hit a brick wall."

Dr Dewi Evans, a retired consultant paediatrician from Carmarthen with 30 years experience, described the delay as "embarrassing" and said UHW should pay for the surgery to be done elsewhere.

"This is a scandal," he said. "Nobody should wait two and a half years for a surgical procedure."

Image caption Mr Matthews said the family feel they have "hit a brick wall"

In a letter to the family's assembly member in September 2016, the health board's then chief executive, Adam Cairns, said surgeons were unable to move Ethan's priority level above that of patients "with salvageable but deteriorating kidney function".

But he did acknowledge the paediatric surgical waiting list "is longer than desired".

A Cardiff and Vale University Health Board spokesman said they were unable to comment on individual cases.

But he said in cases like this, the board "look at the whole clinical picture of the patient" and "sometimes it is not possible to operate on the patient at the schedule time due to an illness or infection which means that the surgery may need to be rescheduled".

The spokesman said the time a patient waits for surgery is based upon a number of factors, such as clinical urgency and the type and complexity of the surgery required.

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