Grandad in plea after autistic boy's hospital ordeal
A devoted grandfather and his special-needs grandson have had to spend the week in Tallaght Hospital A&E department in a desperate bid to secure respite care for the teenager.
Gerard Tracey from Clondalkin, and his grandson Sean (16), have been in an adult cubicle with no natural light in the busy A&E department since Monday.
The youngster became extremely disturbed at home and his mother Eva was unable to cope with his behavioural distress.
"We would love to keep him at home but we are not equipped to look after him," said Mr Tracey, who has been by the youngster's bedside throughout.
"He is a lovely lad and needs to be in a safe environment with staff who are trained to look after him."
He refused to bring the child home as frantic efforts were made over recent days to get a respite place for him.
After prolonged representations to Children's Minister Katherine Zappone, who is the local TD, Sean is now to get two weeks' respite in a Portlaoise facility, but his family say it is essential he receives more long-term care. During his stay at the A&E there was no stimulation for the teenager and his only respite was his own fidget spinner.
Their plight comes against a dire shortage of respite places for people with a disability across the country, leaving their carers distraught and under unrelenting stress.
"Sean used to get one night's respite every couple of weeks, but it was not a given. Three weeks ago, we brought him to the A&E in St James's Hospital and before we left were promised respite appointments, but nothing happened."
He praised the staff in the Tallaght A&E and was particularly grateful for the kindness of A&E consultant Dr James Gray, who helped them endure their ordeal.
Last year, there were just 158,296 respite nights provided to people with disabilities in approved centres - a 10pc cut from the 2016.
The HSE said it was investing €10m in resourcing new residential respite and alternative respite services for people with a disability and their families and carers.
This should provide 42,500 day places and 182,500 overnights.