Only one new speech and language therapist to deal with Limerick waiting list

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by Alan Jacques

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Willie O'Dea TD
Willie O’Dea TD

ONLY one speech and language therapist has been recruited in the Mid-West this year, despite the fact that several hundred are waiting more than a year for a consultation.

Figures released to Limerick Fianna Fáil TD Willie O’Dea indicate that 1,580 have been waiting for speech and language therapy across the country for at least 12 months. And while there is no regional breakdown, Deputy O’Dea told the Limerick Post it was obvious there were hundreds of people in Limerick and the Mid-West awaiting assessment and treatment.

Of the 27 additional therapists recruited nationally, only one was assigned to the Mid-West region which covers Limerick, Clare and North Tipperary. This indicated that the service was totally under-resourced despite the 2015 HSE Service Plan pledging an additional 120 (whole time equivalent) staff in the disability area.

“At the end of August this year, 12,835 people were awaiting assessment and another 8,363 are awaiting treatment. Although there is no breakdown of the waiting list figures for the Mid-West, there are obviously hundreds of people in Limerick and the Mid-West awaiting assessment and treatment,” Deputy O’Dea explained.

“Children dominate the waiting lists and it is troubling to think that they are not getting access to these services in a speedy manner. Speech and language therapy can be of huge benefit to those who need it, but it needs to be done as soon as possible, especially where children are involved.”

He says it is absolutely vital that a renewed recruitment drive is undertaken immediately in this important area.

In a statement to the Limerick Post, a spokesman for the HSE said it was always regrettable that people could be waiting for services and every effort was being made to minimise the impact of this.

“In many cases, there is quite a long term relationship between the service user and the therapy service, particularly so for aspects of speech and language. This is one of a number of grades prioritised for replacing vacancies during the moratorium on recruitment.

“We have speech and language therapists employed across a range of services including primary care, disabilities, rehabilitation and acute services. Increasingly in recent years we have seen this profession sub-specialise into these areas of expertise and move away from what might have been seen as a generic service. We have recently received targeted funding to assist in tackling some key waiting lists in speech and language therapy between now and year-end.

“When anyone compares one post in a particular context such as disability, it must be understood in the total context.  For example, we received five extra speech and language therapy posts for our Child and Adolescent Mental Health service in the Mid West in 2012 and two extra for our Primary Care service in 2013.

“There are waiting lists but they are constantly kept under review and tackled”, the spokesman concluded.