DUBLIN, Ireland: Ireland's health care provider, the HSE, has apologized to families following news reports that over 18,000 children with disabilities have been unable to receive appointments for care.
Further, recently released figures show that the most up-to-date figures indicate that in September, 8,751 children out of 18,473 have been waiting over 12 months for a first appointment.
Those children waiting for first appointments include16,179 waiting for a first ophthalmology appointment; 14,260 for occupational therapy; 13,516 waiting for their initial assessment for speech-and-language therapy; 12,505 children waiting for a psychology appointment; 10,135 for audiology; 7,965 waiting for physiotherapy.
Addressing the issue in parliament, the Dail, minister of state for disabilities Anne Rabbitte said there is an average vacancy rate of 28 percent within HSE's Children's Disability Network Team, coming to some 524 vacancies out of a total 1,892 staff members.
In a statement, an HSE spokeswoman said they "apologize to those families who have had a poor experience in trying to access care and information, and will continue to work to make a difference, make changes, and build a sustainable and better service for children," as quoted by the Irish Examiner.
Further, children in Cork and Dublin are the largest group unable to get appointments.
Meanwhile, Labour TD for Cork East Sean Sherlock said the Children's Disability Network Team system is no longer working.
"Notwithstanding the bona fides of the minister, what we're not seeing is the impact of the policy - and the numbers on the waiting list bear that out - and all we want is access to services for children who badly need the services and are entitled to the services," Sherlock said, as quoted by the Irish Examiner.
"Families are going through turmoil because they feel that if their child can't get timely access to services, then the child falls behind from a developmental point of view."