Friday 23 February 2018

Occupational therapy waiting list doubles

993 young people now waiting over a year

Cork North West TD, Aindrias Moynihan has criticised the Minister for Disability, Finian McGrath for failing to deal with the 'rocketing' number of Cork young people waiting more than 12 months for an occupational therapy assessment.

Deputy Moynihan raised the issue last week in the Dáil with Minister McGrath as data shows that 993 young people in Cork were waiting more than 12 months for an assessment.

"What needs to be remembered is that this isn't 993 young people waiting for treatment, it is 993 young people waiting to be assessed to see do they need treatment," said Deputy Moynihan.

"The number of young people waiting for an assessment longer than 12 months has doubled from August 2015 to January 2017 when fewer than 500 were on the list [in 2015].

In reponse to a parliamentary question tabled by Deputy Moynihan, Minister McGrath told the Dail: "I have been informed by the HSE that there continues to be an increase in referral rates to the Primary Care Occupational Therapy Services in the Cork and Kerry Community Healthcare Organisation area. The number of referrals for the months January to March 2017 have increased by 20% on the same period last year which is impacting on the numbers waiting more than a year for occupational therapy services."

However, Deputy Moynihan was not asuaged by the response.

"Taken in isolation, these figures are shocking in and of themselves. However, it's even worse when we look at the national picture. There is double the number of young people in Cork waiting for assessment longer than 12 months than in the whole of Dublin," continued Deputy Moynihan.

"Occupational therapy is vital to assist people to do the everyday things that they want and need to do when faced with illness, injury, or disability. This is even more pertinent when it is a young person.

"In the Minister's reply, there is a suggestion that, due to an increase in the number of referrals for assessment, up by 20% from January to March 2017, the surge in those waiting can be justified. However, this doesn't account for the doubling of those waiting longer than 12 months from August 2015 to January of this year.

However, there was some cause for optimism in the minister's response. To address the waiting list issue, a pilot initiative to deal with children aged 3 to 5 years, which will have the effect of reducing the waiting lists overall in an eight month period, is currently under consideration. If approved, this pilot initiative will get underway later this year," said Minister McGrath.

This initiative is in addition to the current work of the HSE National Therapy Service Review Group established to address therapy waiting times, including those for access to Occupational Therapies," added the minister. "This joint Primary Care and Social Care project will include a detailed analysis of waiting times and resource deployment across the country.

"It will seek to make the services more responsive to people's needs and also to put in place a standardised approach to the delivery of Occupational Therapy services across the country.

Deputy Moynihan accepted that this latest initiative was cause for some optimisim. "While this is a welcome development, and the pressure on some groups will be eased, it does not address the root cause of the growing waiting list," said Deputy Moynihan. "However, I am dismayed that the Minister and the HSE will not be in a position to roll it out until later this year.

"The priority being given to this issue is simply not good enough. I will continue to highlight this issue until the HSE starts treating it with the urgency that it deserves," concluded Moynihan.


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