Thomas Pringle TD

Pringle: HSE must address waiting lists for children’s assessments

Pringle: HSE must address waiting lists for children’s assessments

Independent TD for Donegal, Thomas Pringle, said delays in assessment of children’s needs is “nothing short of neglect”, as he called for the removal of all barriers keeping children from timely assessments.

Addressing the Dáil on Tuesday evening, Deputy Pringle said: “Early intervention is essential in appropriately meeting the educational and health needs of children with disabilities, yet we have over 18,000 children on occupational therapy waiting lists alone. This is not acceptable, and it is of utmost importance that long waiting lists are addressed as soon as possible.”

Deputy Pringle said: “It is completely disingenuous for the government to claim that these waiting lists have been addressed when this is simply not the case. The short, preliminary assessment introduced does absolutely nothing to address the issue of waiting lists. It merely moves children onto yet another waiting list for further assessment, with no obligation on the HSE to address their assessment within a specific timeframe.”

The deputy said this has been an issue in Donegal for some time. He contacted the Minister for Education, the Minister of State with responsibility for Special Needs and Inclusion, and the Minister of State for People with Disabilities, on behalf of concerned constituents last year to raise his concerns.

The deputy said: “Each minister told me that the assessment of needs was under the responsibility of the Minister for Health. However, despite contacting the Minister for Health on the 21st of April last year, I have yet to receive a response to these concerns.”

Deputy Pringle said: “It is very worrying that the HSE has become completely unreliable in providing people with the necessary services they are entitled to. Parents have said they ‘can’t depend on the HSE for anything’.” He said many parents are being pushed into paying for private diagnoses due to unreasonable waiting times by the HSE as well.

The deputy was speaking in support of a Sinn Féin motion on assessment of needs that sought to remove barriers to parents’ accessing assessments for their children.

He said an As I Am survey revealed that 80 per cent of parents and guardians have had to wait at least a year for an autism diagnosis.

Deputy Pringle said: “How is this acceptable in this day and age? There are many families who are unable to pay the huge cost of a private diagnosis and so what is being created is yet another system of inequality and inaccessibility for lower-income families in this country.”

He said: “There is something seriously wrong when people are forced into private healthcare because their public healthcare system is unable adequately support them.”

Deputy Pringle said: “The HSE needs to allocate funding to increase the number of staff and therapists available. It needs to ensure that the assessment of needs process is comprehensive and that it identifies the full range of supports and services a child needs, rather than diluting the service delivered to the children of this country.

“The current system is nothing short of neglect. These long waiting lists are nothing short of neglect. This needs to be addressed immediately and so I strongly support this motion to do so,” he said.