By Sorcha Rose McGroarty
Figures in a recent HSE report show that nationwide vacancies in the Children’s Disability Network are higher than the year previous, with Meath proving to have higher vacancy levels than the national average.
While in 2021 the national average for vacancies in the sector were reported to be at 28% the 2022 report shows vacancies rising to 34% in just one year. Meath reported to have vacancy levels of 35%.
Sinn Fein TD Darren O’Rourke released a statement of his opinions on these figures, saying “It is devastating.”
“We know that this is across all teams and across all grades and disciplines.”
The Children’s Disability Network Team, (CDNT), provides services nationwide to support children with disabilities and complex health issues to flourish and thrive in environments catered to their needs across several sectors. These sectors include access to psychologists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, social workers and physiotherapists.
“There were over 707 vacancies across the 91 CDNTs nationally, as opposed to 524 in the previous census, with vacancy rates in Speech and Language Therapy (36%), Occupational Therapy (40%), and Psychology (39%) of particular concern, given their essential role in the delivery of legislative obligations for Assessment of Need under the Disability Act 2005.”
Speaking further on the matter, Darren O’Rourke TD also said, “Unfortunately, these figures will come as no surprise to parents/guardians or children trying to access services. Across our country there is a shortage of therapists – SLT, OT, psychology, physio – and capacity.”
Families with disabled children are finding it increasingly difficult to manage support for their children with the limited resources provided to them due to these shortages. This is resulting in these children with complicated needs beyond their control being left behind by the system intended to support them.
“The response from the HSE acknowledges the significant recruitment challenges and outlines efforts to address them, but it is clear that not enough is being done. Where is the aggressive strategic plan?”
Chief Officer of the Midlands Louth Meath Health Organisation Des O’Flynn he said he acknowledged the shortages and their detrimental impact on children waiting for appointments with specialists In a letter to O’Rourke.
“The CDNTs continue to strive to deliver as timely a service as possible but this is extremely challenging due to vacancy levels. Recruitment remains a priority and all efforts at a local and national level are being explored.”
In this letter, Chief officer Des O’Flynn also says the HSE is currently trying to source candidates for unfilled positions overseas, noting that the national pool is limited in its candidates for the necessary specialties.