The HSE has confirmed there is an average staff vacancy rate of 28% in community disability network teams across the nine Community Healthcare Organisation areas.
It follows a Children's Disability Network Team (CDNT) staff census and workforce review, the final report of which has now been finalised and given to the Department of Health and relevant stakeholders.
The staffing shortfall had been highlighted by Sinn Féin's Spokesperson on Disability and Carers, Pauline Tully, who described the situation as “shocking”.
“The review goes on to report that there is a 29% vacancy rate at a senior level, a 34% vacancy rate at staff grade and a 78% vacancy rate among clinical specialists,” Ms Tully said.
“A large section of the vacant posts is down to the fact that the HSE does not fund CDNTs to backfill or replace staff members who are vacant due to maternity, paternity, or parental leave, which is the equivalent of 121 vacant posts, according to the review.
“This is placing an extremely heavy burden on the staff who are in post as they try to cope with the additional workload placed on them by the fact that almost a third of their teams have not been filled.
“This is undoubtedly one of the main factors that has led to extremely high waiting lists for assessments and services.”
The HSE said the 28% figure includes unfilled 2021 development posts as well as other vacancies arising from retirements, resignations, and maternity leaves, and said it is experiencing challenges recruiting staff across a range of disciplines and grades.
A HSE spokesperson said: “Since 2019, more than 475 development posts have been allocated to children’s disability services across the country. This includes 190 additional therapy posts in the NSP 2022, which is a further substantial increase in the provision of funding in support of the development of the Children’s Disability Network Teams, building on the 185 posts provided for in 2021.
“These additional posts are intended to support the newly established CDNTs to prioritise intervention for children with complex needs.
“Most of the disciplines working in CDNTs are similar to those working in other areas of the health services including Primary Care Services, Mental Health Services, Older Person Services and Acute Hospitals.”