Children confined to wheelchairs as they wait 20 months for vital equipment

HSE budget woes are leaving some children confined to wheelchairs while they wait up to 20 months for special disability equipment.

More than 1,400 people in Cork and Kerry have been waiting that long for the vital support, including many children.

Figures revealed at the latest HSE South health forum show the delays are still causing havoc to children and adults with health problems, despite being first highlighted in September.

The wait is for orthotic services which help patients, including many children suffering from serious spine, leg, and foot problems, to walk. Under the service, patients can access special shoes, leg splints, and back braces — which are particularly vital for a child’s physical development.

While most HSE South areas have few delays, 1,416 people are waiting for the help in the €450,000-budgeted Cork and Kerry area. Senior HSE managers accept the “challenging” problem — for which a full waiting list breakdown was not provided — must be addressed.

However, they said improvement plans may be derailed if extra funds fail to appear.

“The waiting lists and times in the area are particularly challenging, and efforts were made during 2012 from within the limited resources available to improve the situation,” said HSE Cork community services manager Gretta Crowley.

“The HSE is giving consideration to all elements involved in a comprehensive solution... [But] obviously any [service] expansion will require additional resources, and this will be subject to the availability of resources as part of the 2013 HSE service plan.”

Labour councillor Catherine Clancy, who raised the issue, said the problems meant some children were left “confined to a wheelchair because of delays. This is a quality of life issue”.

While Cork and Kerry are worst hit, the delays have also struck other areas.

In November, it emerged that 3-year-old Uisneach Ó Nualainn, from Ballybrack in Dublin, who has a rare genetic disorder, was facing an eight-month delay for replacement leg splints and special shoes needed if he is to learn how to walk.

“Uisneach can’t crawl yet because of development problems. He can stand up and take a few steps with equipment. But that will be suspended as he needs equipment that fits,” his mother Miriam said at the time.

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