The HSE is conducting a second review of the need for nursing supports at a special school in Kerry after ignoring the recommendations of a previous assessment which found increased support was necessary.
The second review was triggered after a meeting of the Southern Regional Health Forum in September, when it emerged that one child was unable to attend St Francis Special School in Beaufort because she had no nursing support.
At the time, Sinn Féin councillor for South and West Kerry, Damian Quigg, said the reality was that if “an able-bodied child” missed school for 20 consecutive days, the education and welfare authorities would be in contact, with parents facing the possibility of a court summons.
“But it’s the exact opposite in this case,” he said.
Ger Reaney, Cork-Kerry Community Healthcare chief, said he was not aware of a child being unable to attend school due to lack of nursing supports, and that he would follow up on it.
This week, Mr Reaney confirmed that the HSE is conducting another review into nursing supports at the school. Asked by the Irish Examiner what the point of a second review is given they had ignored the findings of an assessment carried out 18 months ago by public health nursing, Mr Reaney said: “What we had at the time, I’m not sure I’d call it a review.”
He said it was “an assessment that wasn’t in-depth enough” that it “didn’t assess the needs of the children sufficiently” and that it had in fact “underestimated the amount of supports” that are available at the school.
That assessment indicated that given the complex medical conditions of the children, increased support was needed. However, the HSE decided “upon further examination” that because there had been no change in the numbers of children with conditions such as intractable epilepsy or complex medication/feeding regimes administered in the school, it was not necessary to increase nursing support beyond 32 hours per week.
However, parents of children attending St Francis argue that just 10 hours support is available to the school. When asked to explain this discrepancy, Mr Reaney said: “The 10 hours is general allocation to the school, the 32 hours includes the total allocation to children attending school.”
This meant that if a child could not attend school because of sickness, nursing support was provided in the home. Parents say this leaves children attending school without nursing support on such occasions. Mr Reaney agreed that hours spent supporting children in the home “would probably be counted as part of the 32”.
Asked when the review will be completed, Mr Reaney said two weeks. Asked if they will act on it, Mr Reaney said: “We will be responding to ensure every child can attend school, absolutely.”
He said the review “is giving us a lot more information than we had before and it’s certainly very clear that there will not be any situation where children cannot attend school due to lack of nursing support”.
He said the HSE would do “whatever it takes”.
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