'Our children need you to step up to the plate' - Desperate mum waiting 17 months for daughter's urgent appointment pens open letter to government
A mother whose daughter has been on an urgent speech and language waiting list for more than 17 months said she doesn't know if her daughter will be able to start school in September.
Mum of five Niav McEvoy from Mullawnfin, Gorey, Co Wexford said that in November 2014 her four-year-old daughter Heather was diagnosed with severe speech delay and put on an urgent speech and language waiting list in Gorey.
However 17 months on and little Heather hasn't been seen, in fact she is still only number 12 on the list.
'I was talking to the office last week', said Niav 'and Heather is now number 12 on the list which means there are 11 children ahead of her. We don't know how long it will be before she moves to the top of the list. She's been 17 months waiting so far and that's the urgent waiting list.
'It's so frustrating. No child should be left waiting that long for early intervention.'
Niav said that some of the problem with the long waiting list stems from overlapping maternity leave by two of the therapists. 'Obviously people are entitled to their maternity leave and I've no problem with that. My problem is that these women weren't replaced. That's the issue. Not people taking leave.
'I've a friend who is a speech therapist in Dublin and she also assessed Heather and gave me advice on how to work with her on her speech but she needs proper therapy. I've no issue doing work at home with Heather but I'm not a trained speech and language therapist.
'I could be doing something wrong and not know it.'
Niav said Heather has been diagnosed with Phonological Disorder which is fairly common in children but said that she urgently needs therapy to correct the problem. 'Kids need therapy to get beyond the speech delay and the problem can be sorted but if you don't do anything they might not be able to get beyond the problem.'
Niav said that she and husband Darren also investigated the possibility of getting a private speech and language appointment for Heather but were told that there isn't a private therapist working in the Gorey district.
After this Niav, desperate to raise the plight not only of Heather but the long waiting lists, wrote an open letter to Minister for Health Leo Varadkar.
She said she felt she had no other option. In the letter she said she was 'a typical mother who will do anything and everything for her children. A mother who refuses to remain silent on an issue that doesn't just impact on my child but impacts thousands of children the length and breadth of our country.
'Heather is yet another statistic within our health service. My daughter does not deserve to be on an urgent waiting list for 17 months. No child does. My daughter deserves to be heard. She deserves to receive the services she so desperately needs. So does every other child in this country awaiting speech and language therapy.
'It baffles me that our country can pay pensions to serving politicians, how we can squander billions on a useless utility company (don't get me started on THAT one), how we can send billions in foreign aid overseas, how we can welcome thousands of refugees to our land but we cannot afford to provide additional speech and language therapists? We cannot afford to provide such essential services as speech and language to our children. Our children who have been diagnosed with a severe speech delay. Our children who are on an urgent waiting list for over 17 months.'
Niav went on to say: 'it is no secret that the health services need serious and urgent reform. I ask you, no I beg you, to do something about the serious shortage of speech and language therapists so that waiting lists can be eliminated, not reduced, eliminated.
'Surely you can understand that if a young child is diagnosed with a severe speech delay, placing said child on a waiting list that will continue for over a year and a half will be detrimental to that child and his/her development?
'Our children need you to step up to the plate and do the job you are charged with doing; to be the minister you claim to be. Our children need you to hear them.'
Niav said that she had contacted a number of politicians about the problem but said she was told that until a Government is formed nothing can be done.
However she said this isn't good enough. 'If everyone sits back and does nothing, nothing gets done.'
Heather is due to start in Riverchapel National School this September but Niav said the couple don't know if she will be able to go because of her speech delay. 'We don't know how things will go and if she'll be able to start school in September.
'We are hoping that her speech will be good enough and she will be able to go but without therapy before then I don't know. We are working towards her starting in September but realistically we don't know.'
Niav said she has no idea when Heather will get an appointment with a speech therapist. 'I honestly don't know. We are hoping before the summer but we just don't know. She's already 17 months on an urgent list and there are still eleven children ahead of her.'