Joe Flaherty says Longford's Children's Occupational Therapy Services are in Dire Straits
Fianna Fáil General Election Candidate and Longford Cllr Joe Flaherty has expressed concern at the state of children's occupational therapy services across Longford. Cllr Flaherty said the lack of a consistent service for school aged children is putting them at risk of not being able to reach their full potential and live full lives.
Cllr Flaherty explained, "I am regularly contacted by constituents about this issue. Children in Longford deserve a consistent occupational therapy service but instead they are faced with long waits, inconsistent appointments and dealing with relief or agency staff as opposed to any one therapist.
"Towards the end of 2018 more than 68,000 people were waiting for speech and language and occupational therapies assessments across the country. 32,103 adults and children were on a list for occupational therapy with one in four people waiting for longer than 12 months for their first assessment.
Cllr Flaherty said the research proves that delayed interventions decreases a person’s risk of making a full recovery in some circumstances.
"2019 began much the same way with the situation in CHO 8, which Longford is a part of, one of the worst in the country. 4,832 adults and children are awaiting a first time assessment. Research has shown that when people receive delayed interventions, it negatively affects their quality of life, and increases their risk of not making progress or a full recovery in some circumstances”.
As the situation worsens, Cllr Flaherty is keen that the option of the National Treatment Purchase Fund is explored as a means of dealing with the backlog.
He said: “The National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) which seeks to reduce waiting times for public patients is currently only available for inpatient cases and does not cater for the lengthy waiting lists experienced by children waiting for first-time assessments.
"The Minister must consider extending the NTPF to alleviate outpatient lists and to allow parents access private OT assessments for their children. That is one immediate step he could take. Following that he needs to put in place the resources necessary to ensure a consistent service long into the future.
"There are children whose health is deteriorating as they await their first assessment of need. They need a service that is consistent and that works", concluded Cllr Flaherty.