Fianna Fáil TD for Tipperary, Jackie Cahill has said that the inability of the Government to recruit and retain Occupational Therapists is making life very difficult for the county’s older people and people living with disabilities.

Deputy Cahill was commenting after raising the issue of OT vacancies with senior HSE management. At present, there are 4.4 whole time equivalents (WTEs) vacant in the county with a further six WTE OTs on long term leave.

“This is a significant number of OT positions not being utilised to deal with backlogs in assessing older people for home care packages for example.

“Additionally, delays in receiving OT assessments are slowing down applications for the Housing Aid for people with Disability or Older People schemes.

“This just isn’t good enough. There is supposed to be a total allocation of 32.82 WTE OTs for the county, north and south. However, I have been informed that there are only 22.42 WTEs currently active as a result of long term leave and vacancies. That is nearly one in three OTs not active.

“Time and time again, the recruitment and retention of health care professionals is having a detrimental impact on the quality of services being delivered to older people and people with disabilities.

“The Government must up its game, and secure the recruitment of additional OTs to deal with the level of need in county Tipperary. Questions need to be asked as to why so many graduates, in the therapies’ sector in addition to medicine and nursing, are choosing to leave the Irish health system and go overseas.

“Older people and people with disabilities are suffering. A failure to secure home help hours or home care packages often results in delayed discharges from hospitals thereby adding to the problem of overcrowded hospitals.

“Quality of life ultimately suffers and it is no longer acceptable. I am calling on the Government and the HSE to do better and secure the OTs our people need and deserve,” concluded Cahill.