Cork County Council is to employ its own occupational therapists to clear a backlog of claims for housing adaptation grants because the HSE does not have the personnel to manage the job.
Council chief executive Tim Lucey said the local authority was going to take action to address the situation after a number of councillors said delays in adapting houses for the sick and disabled were causing serious hardship.
The issue was raised at a meeting in County Hall by Fianna Fáil councillor Frank O’Flynn, who said he was inundated with cases where people cannot get housing adaptation grants passed because they have to be signed off by occupational therapists, and there are not enough employed by the HSE to handle the backlog.
The HSE is contracted to the council to provide therapists to report on housing adaptation works needed by those who are disabled or who have fallen seriously ill.
Mr O’Flynn asked that the council provide its own occupational therapists “as a matter of urgency” to address the long waiting list for assessment for disabled person grant applications.
“This is a major issue throughout the county,” he said. “I know many people who have been on the waiting list for months and months. It’s a quality of life issue.
“If the HSE can’t provide the OTs, we can’t wait. I’m proposing we take them on now.”
Mary Rose Desmond of Fianna Fáil and Rachel McCarthy of Sinn Féin both supported his call and Bernard Moynihan said turnaround on reports from occupational therapists needs to be rapid.
“The longer a person can be kept in their house the less cost to the taxpayer,” said Fianna Fáil councillor Mr Moynihan.
Independent councillor Noel Collins said: “It’s a very serious social issue. I have many such cases where people with disabilities are waiting months for house adaptations because of the delays. They’re getting very shoddy treatment from government.”
The Mayor of Co Cork, Seamus McGrath, said it was vital the bottlenecks were taken out of the system.
Mr Lucey described the delays in getting occupational therapists reports as “unfortunate”.
He said the council was now seeking “expressions of interest” from occupational therapists who would be able to work for the local authority in the next couple of months on a short-term basis to clear the backlog of applications.
Mr Lucey said he was also looking at a mechanism into the future for the council to bring in its own occupational therapists if it again occurred that the HSE did not have the manpower to deliver the service.
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