Tuesday, 14 December 2010
Services for People with Disabilities
Fidelma Healy Eames (Fine Gael)
I welcome the Minister of State and thank the Leas-Chathaoirleach for allowing me to raise this matter. I ask the Minister for Health and Children to explain the rationale for leaving children with hearing loss or who are deaf without an audiological scientist in Galway since 2002, apart from some sketchy periods when a qualified person has been provided on an ad hoc basis. I ask the Minister of State to outline the timeframe for filling this post and indicate when it will be filled.
I am about to share with the Minister of State an incredible scandal involving a clear infringement of the rights of deaf children. If he listens, as I know he will, he will understand why this is the case. Since 2002 in Galway children with hearing loss or require a hearing test have had to wait considerably long periods before seeing an audiological scientist. There has been no full-time audiological scientist in the area since 2002 and the HSE has only provided a limited and inadequate service, using visiting qualified scientists in three to four sessions per month to assess children. The current waiting list runs to almost 1,300 deaf children who are awaiting their first assessment and review. Clearly, this is unacceptable.
During the years the HSE has attempted to fill the post but to no avail. The last time it was advertised was early 2009, at which point four candidates were invited to attend an interview. Two withdrew for personal reasons, while two were waiting to be interviewed when the embargo on recruitment was implemented. Their interviews were cancelled as a result. Should an embargo have been applied in this case? I say, "No." By November 2009 the HSE was unable to meet its commitment to provide even a locum service, thus leaving deaf children in Galway without a service, including hearing tests, the provision of moulds or the upgrading of hearing aids. As a result, with great difficulty parents have had to source moulds and seek tests elsewhere in the country.
In March parents of hearing impaired children in Galway reformed a campaign to fight for the provision of a service for their children.