CHILDREN are being "squashed" into wheelchairs that are too small for them, leaving them vulnerable to long-term health effects.
Physical deformities, chest infections and pressure sores are some of the possible consequences of children forced to use a wheelchair that is not the correct size, a new study has found.
Major deficiencies in the provision and maintenance of wheelchairs have been identified by researchers at University of Limerick. They found a "worrying" lack of any national policy in this area.
Occupational Therapy specialist Dr Rosie Gowran of UL has now called on the Government to address the problem as a matter of priority, and to order a national survey on wheelchair provision and maintenance, describing it as a "human rights issue."
Some 40,000 people are thought to be wheelchair users in this country, with those with medical cards obtaining their wheelchairs through the HSE.
She claimed there was no regulation on the supply of wheelchairs specifically, meaning "anyone can sell a wheelchair", leaving users open to the risk of being supplied with a device that was "completely unsuitable" she warned.
In Norway, Dr Gowran said, wheelchair users who experienced a breakdown or problem with their equipment could ring an emergency service number up until midnight to access services.
Here, no such number was available nationally, she said.
"We need a way forward, not a reaction," she said.