The HSE has admitted 430 physiotherapists, speech therapists and occupational therapists are swabbing patients for Covid-19 while waiting lists for therapy for children are now over five years, says Denis Naughten.
The HSE’s Ms. Niamh O’Beirne, responding to questioning by Deputy Naughten at today’s Health Committee meeting, admitted that 430 Health & Social Care Professionals – made up of the various specialist therapists so vital for children’s development – are presently involved in community Covid-19 swabbing. A further 24 professionals are directly involved in contact tracing.
“All of these staff are involved in swabbing in the community and yet we have medical professionals and nurses who responded under the Be on Call For Ireland initiative to deal with a crisis situation, who have not been utilised for this work,” stated Denis Naughten.
Commenting on the admission by the HSE, he added: “The fact is three-quarters of speech and language therapists in counties Roscommon and Galway alone are currently involved in contact tracing and testing. Before the lockdown, there was a four year waiting list to access speech and language therapy in those counties. This has now been pushed out by a year as work will have to recommence with children in the service and it is very unlikely that staff will be calling children until 2021.
“That means a preschool child referred to speech and language services might not get support before his or her Holy Communion.
“At present, 1,049 children in the two counties are awaiting access to speech and language therapy but three-quarters of the speech and language therapists are directly involved in contact tracing and testing. This is the same story across the country and is not a good use of scarce therapy resources.
“It is not just speech and language therapists. I have received reports that occupational therapists, physiotherapists, audiologists and podiatrists, to name but a few highly trained staff, have been redeployed since the Covid-19 lockdown and remain redeployed in other areas of the health system while the waiting lists for vulnerable children mount and mount.”
Denis Naughten also pointed out that this practice is happening with HSE therapy posts right across the country, and while such staff have not returned to their original roles many of the private providers have been back delivering these exact same services, and charging for them, for the last few months.
“Last July & August these valuable therapists should have been sent back to the job that they should be doing at the front line, treating children on a day-to-day basis, instead of swabbing when there were plenty of offers under the Be On Call For Ireland initiative.
“How can it be that it has taken months after these staff were redeployed for any attempt to be made to recruit contact tracers and swabbers? Why did we have to wait for a second wave of infection before we got action?” asked Denis Naughten.
See the discussion here: https://youtu.be/3ljPPtzQxGY
Attached PQ replies on appointment under Be On Call For Ireland.