Children waiting two years for speech therapy

Thousands of children have been waiting for up to two years for speech and language therapy in the South of the country, figures from the HSE have shown.

While most local health offices in the South have waiting lists for treatment in excess of two years, Wexford has the highest, where even those deemed “urgent” can wait up to two years for intervention.

The figures supplied by the HSE show:

* In Cork, 1,334 children are waiting for speech and language therapy. The longest waiting time is 18 months.

* In Carlow/Kilkenny, children are waiting on average 19.5 months. Currently, about 653 young people are waiting, with the longest time 39 months.

* In Wexford, 1901 children are awaiting speech and language therapy, while 448 are waiting assessment.

* There are 1,453 children awaiting therapy in Co Wexford following assessment. Those deemed urgent can wait up to two years for intervention, while children in the moderate/mild range can wait up to three years.

The HSE, which provided the figures to Fine Gael TD for Cork East David Stanton, said the provision of speech and language services had been affected by staffing cutbacks.

In relation to the Carlow/Kilkenny figures, the HSE said staffing levels were down 33% due to reduced working weeks, career breaks, unfilled maternity posts and posts vacated and not approved for filling.

In South Tipperary, 430 children are awaiting therapy following assessment or awaiting more therapy having already had some intervention.

The majority of children in South Tipperary — both high and medium-priority cases — are waiting between four and 12 months.

The HSE said that while Wexford had the highest number waiting for treatment for speech and language therapy, taking the first two months of the year, it had the third highest number of referrals in the south region — 128 over the two months.

Cork City’s North Lee and South Lee were the only areas with a higher number of referrals with 153 and 152 referrals respectively.

Wexford has 19 therapists while Cork’s North Lee has 32.1 therapists and South Lee has 45.5.

Currently in Kerry, 68 children are waiting for an initial assessment.

The average waiting time for initial assessment is three months and all children are seen within four months, the services there said.

Because of the backlogs in treatment, parents whose children need the therapy are often forced to go private at great personal cost.


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