Waiting lists for children’s therapies unacceptable – Reilly
Figures released by the HSE to Sinn Féin Senator Kathryn Reilly show that the waiting lists for children for physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech and language therapy in counties Cavan and Monaghan for 6 months reaches 200.
Responding to the figures Senator Reilly said:
“This is an issue I have been chasing vehemently over the past number of months, in the Seanad, through Ministerial replies, and through representations to the HSE. My office is contacted weekly by parents of children who have great difficulty getting appointments from the HSE with regards to diagnostic assessments and therapies for their children. As I and others have noted previously, this is not just the odd case. This is the rule, not the exception.
“Access to therapies for children is severely restricted when we consider the waiting lists that currently exist. A cursory glance at the figures shows that children’s development is being hindered by excessive waiting times spanning over 6 months. We must consider that many accessing these services are in their formative years. In Cavan and Monaghan together, the 6 month waiting list for physiotherapy appointments is 83 children, with 4 children waiting over 2 years. 77 children are waiting for 6 months for occupational therapy, with 88 on the list for 12 months. Finally, 40 children in the two counties are on the waiting list for 6 months for speech and language therapy.
“The figures released show that there are still unacceptable waiting lists, particularly when you look at the waiting times of over 12 months for these services.
“€4 million for an additional 80 posts was provided under the HSE’s Progressing Disability Services for Children & Young People (0-18 years) in 2014, and a €6 million allocation was announced in 2015 for 120 new staff appointments. This is grossly inadequate and in many cases has not even seen provision return to the levels of 2009/10. I am aware that in Cavan/Monaghan 2 additional posts, including 1 Speech and language Therapist and 1 Occupational Therapist have been filled. However, looking at the demand that exists in terms of the waiting lists, further positions are required.
“Previously in the Seanad, the Minister advised that there has been a 32% increase in referrals for children between 2010 and 2014 for the physiotherapy and occupational therapy service in Cavan/Monaghan. Extensive waiting lists for assessment and treatment, coupled with a trend of parents seeking private speech and language therapy are indicative of a system that cannot cope with demand. This needs to be addressed urgently.
“The under-capacity of the public system means that parents are forced to spend hundreds of euro every month on private therapy if they want to see their child talk, walk, or have any hope of realising their individual potential. For example, €60 for 30 minutes is a standard price for private Speech and Language Therapy.
“Sinn Féin’s aim would be to increase the number of SLTs by 250, OTs by 100, PTs by 100 and psychologists by 150 over our term in government, at an estimated cost of €30.725 million. This has been accounted for in our recently launched Health policy document ‘Better4Health’. This would benefit the children of Cavan and Monaghan, and their families, and help them access the services they need in a timely manner.”