A LACK of therapists in Kildare has seen waiting lists stretch out to over two years in some cases, it was revealed last week.
“We know children’s waiting times for intervention are between 30-60 weeks in Kildare,” said local TD Fiona O’Loughlin.
A first assessment for physiotherapy is between 23-52 weeks, and there are 210 children in the county waiting to access this service. This backlog occurred after a senior physiotherapist went on maternity leave with no cover provided.
A first assessment for speech and language therapy is 33 weeks, with 591 children waiting for an appointment, while a first assessment for occupational therapy is between 72-120 weeks. Over 900 children are waiting.
A first appointment to see a psychologist in the Kildare/West Wicklow region is now a wait of 52 weeks, with 100 children on the waiting list.
As featured in the Kildare Nationalist two weeks ago, there is currently a vacancy in Kildare town for a psychologist, which the HSE hopes to fill by 2020. Meanwhile, 379 children in Kildare are still waiting for an appointment.
“Last year’s budget promised 100 new therapists to help cut through waiting lists for children with disabilities, but at the end of September 2019 just 22 of the pledged 100 posts were definitely in place,” deputy O’Loughlin pointed out.
“There has been absolutely no progress on children’s disability network teams since 2016. At the start of that year there were 56 teams in place with a promise of another 129 teams to be up and running by the end of that year. Almost four years later there are still only 56 teams across the country,” said the Fianna Fáil TD.
“If a child requires a diagnostic assessment for ASD [autism spectrum disorder], they could be waiting a further 26 to 52 weeks. This is not only outrageous and an embarrassment to the minister for health but, more seriously, a contravention of legislation in place. The 2005 Disability Act provides for an assessment of the needs of eligible applicants with a disability; that must start within three months of an application. Assessments must be completed within three months – a total of six months – yet we see, over and over again, waiting times of up to a year for the process to even begin,” she pointed out.
Deputy O’Loughlin commented: “No-one, adult or child, can wait to be seen in a mental health care emergency. By the time families look for help, things are mostly beyond desperate. To turn around and tell a child in need of urgent care that they have to wait a year to be seen – it takes such courage to look for help. These children need to be seen immediately, as soon as they present, to be safeguarded and protected. Early intervention is key – often it is lifesaving.
“I am inundated with parents telling me about delays accessing services. A majority of these parents are doing their absolute best to gain access to supports for their children and each of them are beyond stressed about what the future will bring and how much each service will continue to cost them.”