Thousands of babies still miss out on crucial check-ups
THOUSANDS of babies are still not getting their developmental checks on time as staff shortages continue to affect the service.
Less than half the babies who should be given the checks before 10 months of age were seen on time in Roscommon in February.
And only 57pc of infants were screened within the recommended time in Limerick, according to figures from the Health Service Executive (HSE).
The delays increase the chances of a delayed diagnosis of developmental problems or even cerebral palsy, leaving the infant losing out on timely intervention.
The numbers fall far short of the HSE's 95pc target and a lack of staff, as well as prioritisation of the school vaccines programme, are being blamed.
The HSE said nationally 90pc of the infants were checked within 10 months which is better than than its performance of 85.3pc this time last year.
Delays are a cause of concern because these checks can be key in picking up any signs of problems such as the baby's inability to sit up properly, eyesight difficulties or other potential disabilities, allowing treatment to be given as early as possible.
If a child fails to reach a milestone or early signs of illness or disease go unnoticed, it could have life-long consequences.
If a child is not learning a skill that other children are developing at the same age it may be a warning sign that they may be at risk for developmental delay.
A spokeswoman for the HSE West said that the Roscommon community care area has two area medical officers to to cover the county.
"At present one doctor is on leave," she said.
"The other's time is divided between the schools immunisation programme and child development clinics, along with other duties.
"In the past month approval has been given by the area manager to employ a locum area medical officer for two days a week to help with the child development clinics. This has improved the statistics we are in the late 80pc coverage."
Meanwhile, the HSE's community services in the area of early intervention teams who provide psychological treatment or therapies to children are also being badly hit by staff shortages leading to delays of up to a year for assessment in some cases.
It also recently emerged that 15,776 children across the country are waiting for speech and language assessment. Of these, 1,639 children waited for more than a year for their initial assessment of speech and language problems.