Wheelchair waiting list as finances are used up

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SEVERELY disabled people in Limerick are waiting months to get a wheelchair and others are waiting three years waiting for aids and equipment to help them have any quality of life.

Local representatives have been told that funding has run out and even patients who have been approved for medical aids will have to wait.

“It’s appalling. People are not managing – they’re suffering. I believe this is shortening the lives of those severely ill people who need appliances and are not getting them,” an angry Deputy Willie O’Dea (FF) told the Limerick Post after he raised the issue in the Dáil this week.

He slammed the Government and the HSE for making hundreds of clients wait for several years for Orthotics and other physiotherapy and occupational therapy equipment, including months of a waiting list for new wheelchairs.

An 84-year-old man from the county who has completely lost his walk was approved by the occupational therapist for an orthodontic bed eighteen months ago, He still doesn’t have it. His wife is 83 and suffers from Parkinson’s.

“When I rang to try to follow this up, I was told there’s no more money and that’s that.

“People are housebound for months because they can’t get wheelchairs, callipers, orthopaedic shoes. The criteria to qualify for these things is already very tight.  If an occupational therapist says you need these aids, you really do need them.

And to rub salt in the wound, he said that people living a few minutes’ walk away from the Limerick boundary in East Clare have only to wait a fraction of the time.

“This is more of the postcode lottery that goes on in this country and is inherently wrong,” Deputy O’Dea said.

Last Wednesday he questioned Health Minister Simon Harris on the matter in the Dáil.

“There are hundreds on the Limerick waiting list alone and often they are waiting several years for the aids and appliances they require. There appears to be absolutely no funding left to provide any of the equipment required even for urgent cases. I know of one man in Limerick who was told over a year ago that he urgently needed new orthotics, but he’s still waiting and could be waiting for years,” he said.

Deputy O’Dea asked if the Minister was aware that in the mid-west region there is a three-year waiting list for aids and appliances?

“When I contact the HSE, I am consistently told that money has not been provided and that the list is growing. Can the Minister provide reassurance in that regard? When will money be released to accommodate those who have received sanction?”

Minister Harris said that €26 million in one-off funding is to be made available between now and the end of the year, with provision for additional funding for aids and appliances.

“As for how much of the allocation will go to the mid-west region, that is a matter for the HSE, but I will reply directly to the Deputy on it,” the Minister added.

“We have to remember we are talking about vital equipment that keeps people out of hospital and in their own homes. We are talking about basic aids and appliances that allow individuals to live independently.

Without the required equipment, some people are suffering greatly and their medical condition is getting worse as a result of the long wait.”