Fianna Fáil TD for Laois-Offaly, Barry Cowen has expressed concern at the number of vacant posts in occupational therapy services in Laois-Offaly.
Deputy Cowen was commenting as a HSE response on capacity outlined that “even if all posts were filled [the HSE] is unable to meet the growing demands for services”.
Deputy Cowen explained: “Occupational therapy services are entering 2019 as they left 2018, understaffed and under-resourced.
“We currently have five vacancies in paediatric OT services and despite assurances given in the Budget that extra resources towards children’s assessments would be provided, children across Laois and Offaly still have to wait for excessively long periods to get their first-time assessment.
“In their response to me the HSE outlined that the Primary Care Paediatric OT vacancy has been prioritised for approval but that in the meantime an agency OT had been appointed until the end of January 2019.
“What happens at the end of January if the permanent position remains unfilled? Will the agency therapist remain in place? We know that there is a huge recruitment and retention crisis in the HSE and that hundreds of millions are spent each year on agency staff which results in a massive budget overspend.
“The timelines involved in recruitment is currently eight to ten months and I have heard from constituents, whose family members, having lived and worked abroad would now like to return to Ireland to work in our health services but have found the system of recruitment, arduous and bureaucratic.
“The HSE must get to grips with this crisis. The National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) which seeks to reduce waiting times for public patients is currently only available for inpatient cases and does not cater for the lengthy waiting lists experienced by children waiting for first-time assessments.
“The Minister must consider extending the NTPF to alleviate outpatient lists and to allow parents access private OT assessments for their children. There are children whose health is deteriorating as they await their first assessment of need”, concluded Deputy Cowen.