December 10, 2021
Figures expose ‘scandal’ of children’s health waiting times – Mark Ward TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Mental Health, Mark Ward TD, has obtained figures which expose the shocking extent to which children’s health waiting times have spiralled out of control.

Over 71,000 children are waiting for life changing treatment; with over 19,000 of these children waiting over a year.The information was obtained by Teachta Ward through a parliamentary question to the HSE.

The figures show huge waiting lists for Occupational Therapy, Physiotherapy, Ophthalmology, Mental Health, Speech and Language, Psychology, and Dietetics. 

The information also reveals huge discrepancies in treatment depending on where children live.

Teachta Ward said:

“I am both shocked and angered by how many children are being forced to wait on long waiting lists for essential healthcare. This is scandalous and should not be happening. 

“Information that I have received has revealed that over 71,000 children are waiting for life changing treatment with over 19,000 of these children waiting over a year.  There are huge waiting lists for Occupational Therapy, Physiotherapy, Ophthalmology, Mental Health, Speech and Language, Psychology, and Dietetics. 

“I am also deeply concerned by the geographical discrepancies here. Children should not be subjected to a postcode lottery when it comes to healthcare.

“Occupational Therapy is important for children with physical, psychological and social problems in order to enable them to live life to the fullest. This therapy supports children to reach their maximum level of independence and autonomy.

“These figures show that there are 14,619 children are currently waiting on a first time assessment for occupational therapy. Of these, 6,351 children are waiting over a year for this life changing therapy.

“There is also a postcode discrepancy in how quick you can access therapy.  There are 335 children on a waiting list in CHO 3 which includes North Tipperary but if you go a couple of miles down the road to CHO 5 to South Tipperary there are 3,119 children waiting for treatment.

“Physiotherapists for children can help children with disabilities to improve movement and function in the body caused by problems with muscles, bones or the nervous system. It is vitally important that children access this treatment in a timely manner. There are 8,666 children waiting for physiotherapy appointments with 1,658 of these children waiting over a year, according to figures released to me by the HSE. 

“Again, this unacceptable postcode lottery applies. CHO Area 8 which serves Laois/Offaly, Longford/Westmeath, Louth/Meath has a waiting list of 2,248 children while CHO Area 6 which serves Wicklow, Dun Laoghaire, Dublin South East has 362 children waiting on physiotherapy.

“The Community Ophthalmology service cares for medical conditions of the eye. There are a staggering 16,838 children currently waiting for an Ophthalmology appointment. Shockingly, nearly 4,000 children are waiting over a year for treatment.

“It is even worse if you live in Galway, Roscommon or Mayo with 6,126 children waiting for treatment compared to 116 children in Dublin North, Dublin North Central, and Dublin North West.

“I have constantly called for a fit-for-purpose Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAHMS) so that our young people can access and receive the care they need, when and where they need it. 3,065 children are currently on the waiting list for mental health intervention with CAHMS. 616 of these children are living in CHO area 4 that serves Kerry, North Cork, North Lee, South Lee, and West Cork whilst 110 children are waiting on mental health supports in CHO area 2 of Galway, Roscommon, and Mayo.

“Another key service is speech and language therapy. The waiting times for speech and language therapy are shocking, with 12,867 children currently waiting on speech and language therapy and 1,721 of these kids waiting over a year.

“If you live in CHO area 5 of South Tipperary, Carlow/Kilkenny, Waterford, and Wexford and need speech and language supports you join 2034 children on the waiting list in comparison to 201 children waiting in CHO area 6 of Wicklow, Dun Laoghaire, and Dublin South East.

“There are currently almost 10,000 children waiting on psychology appointments with nearly 4,000 of these children waiting over a year.

“These lengthy waits are not only completely unacceptable from a medical point of view, they are causing enormous stress and anxiety to the children and families stuck on endless lists.

“The waiting times vary significantly depending on what area of the country is looked at. For example, in CH06, which includes Wicklow and Dun Laoghaire, there were 369 children waiting more than a year for a psychology appointment. That jumps up to 2,133 children waiting in CHO Area 9 of Dublin North, Dublin North Central, and Dublin North West.

“Early intervention is key to developing healthy eating habits in children. It is crucial that dietitians work closely with families and other members of the disability team. Children may experience problems with nutrition and diet. Some conditions may result in a child being over or underweight. Data obtained by me from the HSE has exposed that over 5,500 children are currently waiting for dietetics treatment. Of these 1,329 are waiting for over a year.

“1,781 children are waiting for treatment in CHO 5 which includes South Tipperary, Carlow, Waterford and Wexford, however in CHO6 of Wicklow, Dun Laoghaire and Dublin South East have just 60 children waiting for treatment .

“These figures are frightening. Children are being denied the opportunity to reach their full potential by years of underinvestment by successive Governments.

“It is heart-breaking for these 71,000 children and their families that they have been let down and left behind by the state. Behind every statistic is real lives and real childhoods put on hold due to government failings.

“We need to move away from this postcode lottery. Our children should be treated by need not by where they live. No one’s address should ever determine their access to timely healthcare.

“These figures are truly shocking and must serve as a wake-up call for this out-of-touch government. Chronic under-investment by government after government have brought services to their knees. We need to see targeted investment to tackle these long waiting lists and ensure all patients, regardless of age, can access healthcare in a timely way.”

The Parliamentary Question response can be viewed here

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