Parents form group to fight for orthotics service

Parents of children and teens facing 20-month delays for vital equipment to help them overcome serious walking disabilities have set up a group to fight for access to the supports.

The Action Against Disabling the Enabled group said it is pushing for the issue to be addressed after the Irish Examiner revealed the chronic Cork and Kerry delays yesterday.

The delays relate to orthotics services used to help children and adults with serious spine, leg, and foot disabilities to walk by providing specially designed shoes, leg splints and back braces.

While serious waiting lists are not apparent in most of the country, chronic funding problems in Cork and Kerry mean the region currently has 1,416 people waiting for the help, delaying access to the vital supports for up to 20 months.

After losing patience with the difficulties their children are facing — including the unseen impact on physical development — more than 30 families have combined to raise awareness.

Chairwoman of the newly formed group, Kim Lenane, said it is unreasonable to expect children in one part of the country to wait almost two years for help while those with identical issues in other regions can receive the support within weeks.

“The children we’re talking about range from a four-year-old girl to a 15-year-old boy, these children have issues like cerebral palsy and intellectual conditions,” said Ms Lehane.

“My own son has a mild form of spina bifida which affects one side of his leg. With a leg brace he can take part in sports but without it he wouldn’t even be able to walk.”

The group met minister of state Kathleen Lynch in recent days to try and obtain a guarantee that funding will be made available to address the delays.

However, while assurances were made that their concerns are being heard, funding shortages in the system mean such a statement is not possible.

At Thursday’s HSE South regional health forum, HSE Cork community services manager Gretta Crowley said officials are doing the best they can with a €450,000 budget for the Cork and Kerry orthotics service.

However, she said any significant cut in waiting lists is solely dependent on more funds being provided in the 2013 HSE service plan. “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,” she said.

* Action Against Disabling the Enabled: disablingtheenabled@ gmail.com.


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