Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan Niamh Smyth has called on the Health Minister to urgently address staffing issues within occupational therapy services in the HSE.

The latest information provided to Deputy Smyth reveals that there were 308 children waiting more than a year for an appointment with an occupational therapist across Cavan and Monaghan in February this year.  Two staff posts within the service have been vacant for over a year, while over the past 5 years; there have been 4 cases of maternity leave, all without cover.

“Children in Cavan and Monaghan are not receiving the services they should be entitled to because the HSE is failing to adequately deal with staffing issues in occupational therapy.  There are currently 5 posts assigned to Cavan-Monaghan paediatric services, but two of these positions are unfilled – one of which has been vacant for two years”, explained Deputy Smyth.

“While HSE bosses fail to get to grips with their staffing problems, the number of children waiting for essential appointments is growing.  The latest figures available to me reveal that there are 177 children in Cavan and 131 in Monaghan waiting more than 12 months on an OT appointment.  This is a disgraceful situation and could pose serious threats to the development of these children.

“Despite allocation announcements over the past number of years, there are only 3 OT staff serving the Cavan-Monaghan area.  If all the posts, which had been announced over recent years, were filled, there would be 8 staff (6 senior level and 2 staff grade) to cover the two counties.

“It is scandalous that vulnerable children with conditions such as Dyspraxia, Cerebral Palsy, Downs Syndrome and Spina Bifida are being left without an essential service because HSE management cannot get its act together and ensure that vacant positions are filled.  This is simply not good enough.  I am calling on the Health Minister Simon Harris to engage with the HSE in this region to ensure that these posts, some of which have been vacant for years, are filled as a matter of priority”.