Huge clinic backlogs cause concern for new mothers in Lucan
Sinn Féin Dublin Mid West representative Joanne Spain has expressed concern at the serious backlog of infant health check ups in Lucan and challenged Health Minister and local TD Mary Harney to listen to her voters and invest in the Lucan Health Centre. Ms Spain was approached by parents after several babies had their nine-month check ups cancelled due to lack of staff at the clinic and were told the one-year check ups were being put back even further. The staff based in the Sarsfield Park Centre are the only ones for the whole of Lucan and also deal with the new developments Adamstown, Finnstown and Liffey Valley Park, giving them a catchment area of approximately 30,000 people.
Ms Spain said: "Several mothers contacted me to tell me the clinic had been forced to cancel the nine-month check up of their babies and that the one-year check has been put back until 18-24 months. Any mother knows that these are very important checks, identifying as they do any problems with the baby's hearing and sight, etc.
"One mother told me that the public baby nurse had been on holidays when she had her baby in July this year and that there had been no nurse to cover her. A nurse from another district called to her home to tell her she would have to go down to the clinic herself for the baby's check-up. The Sarsfield clinic is only open for three hours a week, between 9am and 12pm on Wednesdays. The same staff run a clinic in Ballyowen on Tuesdays between 2pm and 4pm. The new mother had to sit in a crowded waiting room with a small baby before she was seen. The nurse who spoke to the woman told her that Lucan has the worst backlog in Dublin.
"Sarsfield clinic also has a public dentist but the delays there are also forcing parents to bring small children to private clinics.
"In 2001 nurses in the area threatened to take action over what they warned were substandard and overcrowded conditions. It appears that nothing has been done about the problem since.
"As the mother of a young baby I fully appreciate how upsetting it is to not have these services available to you. I also had to wait several weeks after having my child before a public health nurse visited me. This early period is a time when you are at your most vulnerable and need all the medical help and support you can get. In Britain, new mothers are visited routinely when they come home from hospital.
"The vital checks that you receive throughout the rest of the year are also important for the well-being of your child and your own reassurance. Yet figures released from the HSE show that the number of public health nurses fell from 693 in 2001 to 686 in 2005, despite a substantial increase in the population, particularly in areas like Lucan.
"Health centres such as the one in Sarsfield play a hugely important role in the care of children, new mothers and the elderly. The Minister for Health Mary Harney, who is also a TD for Lucan, has been told that time and again by health professionals and the public. She needs to pull her fingers out of her ears, stop with this mantra of 'private care will fix all our ills' and start doing her job properly. This centre must be fully resourced and should not be left on its own in an area of this size, and the staff levels must be raised to an adequate number to deal with an ever-growing population.
"Lucan is an area that has become synonymous with shortages, whether that is schools, health centres or public transport. I want to know what the Government is going to do about important infrastructure in this rapidly expanding area."