No consultant to get six-year-old Limerick girl off highly addictive drug

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Mollie O'Connell

SIX-year-old Mollie O’Connell has many troubles to deal with but the most worrying one for her parents is that she has been prescribed highly addictive drugs for epilepsy but hasn’t had an appointment with a children’s neurologist in 15 months – because there isn’t one at University Hospital Limerick.

And her mother told the Limerick Post that this “is not a small matter. This is life or death. She had seizures when we tried to wean her off this medication. She could die.”

Molly, from Caherdavin, has autism and on the last visit to the then paediatric neurologist at UHL, her mother, Martine, was told that it was highly likely that Molly is also epileptic.

She was to return for further diagnosis, and in the meantime, she was prescribed benzodiazepine, a drug which she has been taking for more than a year and one which her parents and other doctors dealing with Mollie are very concerned about.

“Mollie was meant to be weaned off that medication in July 2021. We haven’t had an appointment in over a year and this is a very addictive drug. The doctor dealing with some of her other autism issues, who is in Dublin, has tried to wean her off it,”  Martine explained.

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But when the dose she was taking dropped, Mollie had two seizures and had to be rushed to the emergency department.

“After she was treated, the doctor who dealt with us said the only thing he could advise us to do is put her back on the full dose of this very harsh drug. He said it is not his field of expertise but he had to do something.

Being non-verbal, Mollie suffers dreadfully from anxiety and has self-harmed, on one occasion breaking her nose.

“She’s chewed into her fingers so much they’ve got infected, but we have no choice other than to continue to give benzodiazepine to her because otherwise she could have a seizure and die.”

Martine has been told that the neurologist who was treating her daughter has left UHL and the post is not filled. Her only option is to go  to a private neurologist in Dublin and pay for it as she does not have private health insurance.

A spokesman for the UL Hospitals Group said they were unable to comment on individual cases because of their obligations to protect the privacy of patients and our staff.

“We have approval from the National Consultant Appointments Advisory Committee for one paediatric neurologist post which has been vacant since December 2021. We have advertised this post twice without identifying a suitable candidate and we continue to look to fill it.
“Conditions for recruitment of healthcare staff remain extremely challenging nationally and internationally.
“As an interim measure, patients under the care of the previous consultant are being seen by a locum consultant paediatrician. As an additional measure for children with complex neurology needs, we have contracted a consultant paediatric neurologist to provide an outpatient neurology clinic at UHL every six weeks. This service commenced last month.”