Longford families are experiencing difficulty in accessing basic services for their children, according to Senator Micheál Carrigy, who in the Seanad last week called on the Minister for Health to 'tell us when staff will be back on the front line, treating children and not making phone calls'.
The Longford / Westmeath Fine Gael Senator stated, "I know the issue of Early Intervention assessment has been raised on numerous occasions, but figures recently released by the HSE reveal long waiting lists for assessments for speech and language therapy, occupational therapy and physiotherapy, where early intervention is key to a child's prognosis.
"The endless HSE waiting lists are forcing some families to seek private medical care. According to figures from September 2020, there are currently 21,286 children under the age of 17 waiting for their first occupational therapy assessment, which is shocking.
"I recently met with HSE officials and I was told that in the CHO 8 area, 12 people were recruited to relieve staff and to enable them to go back to providing front line services, however the staff have not gone back to their front line roles because the 12 people recruited were employed to cover the extra staff needed in testing.
"While we understand that many services have been put on hold due to Covid-19. Occupational therapists and speech and language therapists who are supposed to be treating those children have spent the past seven months doing contact tracing for the HSE."
Senator Carrigy went on to say, “As far as I can see, until this is done, the situation, which is already serious, is at risk of getting out of control. What families need are expedited appointment dates and not excuses about Covid staff levels, etc.
"I recently met with families in Longford who have spoken of their difficulty in accessing basic services for their children. These are real families and real people. We are in danger of becoming desensitised to the numbers on the waiting list, which are now in the thousands. Each number on the waiting list represents a child and a family who are desperately seeking intervention."
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