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HSE falls behind on essential checks for babies

JUST one in four babies in some areas of the country is getting crucial developmental checks on time because of a lack of health service staff.

A new Health Service Executive (HSE) report shows that just a quarter of babies in Galway are getting the checks before the age of 10 months.

Serious delays are also being experienced in Dun Laoghaire in Dublin where just half the babies are getting the screening in the recommended time.

Children should have this free screening before the age of 10 months and the target set by the health service for 2013 is that 95pc are seen in that period.

Delays are a cause of concern because these checks are essential to pick up any signs of problems in areas such as hearing, eyesight or other disability.

Developmental screening is a general measurement of skills and the aim is to identify children who are in need of further specialist examination.

If a child fails to reach a milestone or early signs of illness or disease go unnoticed, it could have life-long consequences.

A lack of public health nurses in particular is being blamed for not seeing the babies within the recommended time.

The moratorium on recruitment has hit some parts of the country even though efforts have been made to reorganise services. Nurses say that heavy caseloads are taking priority over child health screening

The report for January also shows the HSE was already €12m in the red in the first month of the year. Demographic funding was expected to offset some deficits, but the financial picture is worrying as the troika insists on updates on health spending.

Screening

The report shows there were 1,135 adults waiting over eight months for surgery and another 1,938 adults were waiting more than eight months for a day procedure.

A spokeswoman for the HSE West said it was working to address the delays in developmental screening and a service plan had been put in place.

However, she said there was a "statutory requirement to complete childhood immunisations before the end of the school year".

"This is the number one priority during the school-going months; we will then focus our attention on the completion of 7-9 month development check ups during the summer months."

Meanwhile, the numbers on trolleys climbed to 403, with 35 people waiting for a bed in Beaumont hospital. Another 91 patients across the country were transferred as extras from A&E to wards or corridors.

Irish Independent