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Children with cerebral palsy left without HSE care

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BIG STEPS Pictured in Gielty’s Bar in Dooagh, Achill during a strength and mobility session with Scottish coach Steph Robertson were three Mayo children with cerebral palsy who have had life changing surgery in the USA. Front, from left: Jack Holmes, Molly McNamara and Iarlaith Farrell pictured with Karen Holmes, Natasha McNamara, Ann-Marie Dever (Manager, Gielty’s Bar) and Steph Robertson. Pic: Michael McLaughlin

Edwin McGreal

At least three Mayo children with cerebral palsy have been left with inadequate HSE physiotherapy for months, The Mayo News can reveal.
The children, who all had major Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy (SDR) surgery in the US to alleviate their difficulties, require regular physiotherapy as part of their aftercare, most of which they source privately. However, the HSE physiotherapy they routinely receive for cerebral palsy has been greatly reduced in recent months.
Six-year-old Molly McNamara from Achill Island had physiotherapy every second week until last September. Since then she has had not one single session of HSE physiotherapy.
“Our last contact was in November and that was to cancel a planned session and we’ve had no contact since,” Molly’s mother Natasha told The Mayo News. “We’ve spent the last three weeks emailing for answers and got none. Everyone says ‘that’s not my department’,” added Natasha.
The McNamaras have learned that the drop in service is because Molly’s physio is on maternity leave.
Ciarán Farrell from Charlestown says he is spending €300 a week on private physio sessions for his five-year-old son Iarlaith, who has cerebral palsy. Prior to last September he was due to be getting one hour of physiotherapy every week, but, in reality, it was two hours every three weeks.
Iarlaith had no HSE physiotherapy for a time after September until Ciarán canvassed the HSE. He is now given one hour every three weeks as an accommodation. Iarlaith’s physiotherapy is not the only one of his HSE support services to have been cut in recent weeks.
“Right now Iarlaith’s physiotherapist, his speech and language therapist and his occupational therapist are all on maternity [leave] – his three main therapists. Why can funding not be automatically provided to cover maternity leave in such important roles? There is hugely inadequate cover for those on maternity,” Ciarán Farrell says.
“We’re not blaming the people who are out. We are blaming the system that facilitates a lack of cover in such situations. Why are children who were getting treatment put on a waiting list because someone is on maternity leave? Cerebral palsy won’t wait. There has to be contingencies,” he said.
Karen Holmes’s son, Jack, is due to receive HSE physio every two weeks, but often the sessions are much further apart for the eight-year-old from Crossmolina.
“He had physio at the end of November, and none again until the end of February. There is very little cover if the physio is on leave,” she said.
The parents were speaking in Dooagh, Achill, where Steph Robertson, a Scotland-based coach who does strength and conditioning work with children with cerebral palsy pre and post SDR surgery, was visiting for an intensive four-day session.
The SDR surgery was not available in Ireland to the children Robertson is working with.
Currently, only those who meet a strict criteria can avail of it through Irish healthcare, and the surgery is performed in the UK. Robertson believes the surgery should be more widely available to Irish children with cerebral palsy.
“If there was adequate provision in Ireland, people would not be on to me and would not be coming over to me in Scotland. Nor would I need to come to Achill,” she said.
In response to questions from The Mayo News yesterday (Monday) about lack of physiotherapy cover, the HSE’s Communications Department said there are a number of ‘community-based physiotherapy posts currently vacant throughout the health service in Ireland’.
“HSE CHO Area 2 (Galway, Mayo and Roscommon Community Health Services) have applied for these vacant posts to be replaced. In the event of maternity leave, approval for locums is sought in advance. These posts are currently pending an approval process by the HSE National Primary Care Division, and we anticipate approval shortly.”

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