Dáil debates

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Topical Issues Debate

Speech and Language Therapy

5:15 pm

Photo of Ciara ConwayCiara Conway (Waterford, Labour) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Minister of State for his response. However, I still have concerns. The Minister of State spoke about the services that are available, but those are services in acute hospital settings, not community-based settings. I reiterate that there are no speech and language services for those adults who are lucky enough to be allowed to go home. The Department of Health and the HSE have asked us to look at how we care for people who are sick and infirm. Time and again we hear about the need for these people to go home with the support of care packages. My concern is that we have people in acute beds because of the need for assessment in regard to speech and language therapy. This could be done at home if the post was filled.

In a way, we are robbing Peter to pay Paul. We must find a solution, particularly in regard to posts in the primary care area. I know the Minister of State is a great advocate of the primary care model and that he knows it is much better for the patient and the delivery of service if it can be delivered as close as possible to where the patient resides. Stroke is the third most common cause of death in this country, but it is also one of the most common causes of acquired major physical disability, particularly in regard to impairment of speech. Losing the ability to speak greatly impairs a person's ability to communicate with family, carers and others. The Irish Heart Foundation's stroke guidelines provide clear advice that following a stroke, speech and language therapy in the rehabilitation period is essential. It suggests that after a stroke, speech and language therapy should be provided for between two and eight hours per week and as early as possible. However, if people are discharged from acute hospital settings into the community where there is no service, these patients regress and may have to return to hospital.

I urge the Minister of State to communicate to the Minister my dissatisfaction in regard to the lack of provision of speech and language therapy services for the adult population in Waterford city, particularly those with very debilitating illnesses.


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