Dáil debates

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Topical Issues Debate

Speech and Language Therapy

5:15 pm

Photo of Alex WhiteAlex White (Dublin South, Labour) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Deputy for raising this issue. I understand this follows on from a query raised by a speech and language therapist in respect of the circumstances surrounding an appointment that was not made.

Waterford community services' speech and language therapy department provides services to adults and children in Waterford city and county, including to St. Patrick's rehabilitation unit in Waterford. Adult speech and language services, including at St. Patrick's rehabilitation unit, are provided by the HSE as required, based on prioritisation of referrals within the speech and language department. Both St. Patrick's Hospital in Waterford city and Dungarvan community hospital are integrated in terms of client care for continuing care, rehabilitation care, respite care, convalescence care and palliative care. Clients are placed for rehabilitation as appropriate where their assessed needs are best met within both community hospitals.

In regard to the 20-bed rehabilitation ward at St. Patrick's Hospital, there is a process in place in advance of discharge from Waterford Regional Hospital for rehabilitation. The service has developed a prioritisation system in order to manage access equitably and consistently. If a patient is assessed by the multidisciplinary team as having a requirement for speech and language therapy support during the rehabilitation phase, then this client will transfer to Dungarvan community hospital rehabilitation ward, which has 14 beds, where speech and language therapy is provided.

The current staffing complement in adult speech and language therapy services in the Waterford area is one whole-time equivalent, WTE, post, with 156 new clients attending to date in 2013, bringing the total number of attendances so far this year to 391. The current staffing complement in children's speech and language therapy services in the Waterford area is 11.3 WTE posts, with 492 new clients attending to date in 2013, with a total number of 6,230 attendances to date this year.

The HSE is required to maximise the use of limited resources at all times within the difficult financial environment we have and the ongoing national moratorium on public service recruitment. Where vacancies arise, they are considered within the overall context of available resources within the speech and language therapy department. The HSE is committed to ensuring the delivery of an appropriate speech and language therapy service across the whole Waterford area.

I have listened carefully to what the Deputy has said and to the case she has made and can only agree with her in regard to the circumstances she has described. The need for a speech and language therapy service is clear. The problem is the constraint on resources. I feel very strongly about the issue of front-line staff and I would certainly support recruitment as soon as resources allow us to recruit for these necessary posts. However, the position is as I have outlined it at this stage.


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