Deputy Broughan has been consistently raising the issue of the long delays for parents in accessing an assessment of needs for their children, when required. Deputy Broughan has represented many constituents who have been concerned and upset at the lack of early intervention assessments. The HSE has a statutory obligation to complete Stage 1 of the assessment process within 3 months of receiving an application. Figures released recently to Deputy Broughan show that the average length of time to complete an assessment of need stood at 18.48 months in 2018 and that there were 3,611 overdue applications at the end of 2018.
Early this year, following an interesting briefing from Fr. Seán Healy and Social Justice Ireland, the Committee on Budgetary Oversight identified the possibility of a serious discrepancy between voted health expenditure and what the HSE’s national service plan was trying to achieve. That has turned out to be the case, with Supplementary Estimates required for the Departments of Health and Justice and Equality once again. The Minister was a member of the Government in 2015 when it effectively disestablished the HSE Vote by taking it back within the Department of Health. Since then, the Government has not been managing it.
Deputy Broughan was recently contacted by concerned constituents and medical professionals regarding the withdrawal of inpatient paediatric rehabilitation services in the National Rehabilitation Hospital (NRH). Earlier this summer, it was reported that the Consultant Paediatrician who provided cover to the National Rehabilitation Hospital from Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumlin was taking unplanned leave, leaving the NRH with no cover for this vital service. Deputy Broughan requested information via Parliamentary Question and was this week informed by the Health Service Executive (HSE) that “the inability to admit children for specialist inpatient rehabilitation has seen a resultant increase in the numbers waiting by 38% when compared with waiting figures at the end of Q1 2018 when services were fully operational.”
Deputy Broughan recently asked the Minister for Health to report on the number of medical consultant posts and nursing posts for which funding was approved in 2016 and 2017 that remain vacant. Fine Gael pays much lip service to the funding it has provided for recruitment in the health service but little about the difficulties in recruiting and retaining health service staff and consultants. The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has repeatedly warned us that nurses and nursing graduates look for opportunities overseas because of better pay and conditions.
I am grateful to have an opportunity to speak briefly on this motion. I commend Sinn Féin on its introduction this afternoon. More than 700,000 people are on health waiting lists for treatment and assessment. The figures from the National Treatment Purchase Fund for May 2018 represent an increase of 6,200 on the figures for April 2018. There has been a jump of 4,300 to 511,904 in the number of people awaiting initial assessment by a consultant following a referral from a general practitioner. More than 147,000 people have been waiting for more than a year for an outpatient appointment. Almost 80,000 people have been waiting for more than 18 months for such an appointment.
For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 13th February, 2018.
* 396. To ask the Minister for Health the reason for the withdrawal of medical items (details supplied) from the drug payment scheme; if the decision will be reviewed; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
– Thomas P. Broughan T.D.
The Labour Court recommendation of 20 November is very clear. It states “The Court has given careful consideration to the submissions of both parties and is clear that the worker’s pay is clearly aligned with the HSE pay scales.” The Irish Wheelchair Association was the key mover in the case. It could not be clearer but yet, as Deputy Barry noted, we are just a few days away from a work stoppage involving 7,500 workers in nine section 39 organisations. As the Minister knows, they provide services to some of the most vulnerable citizens in our community. It is outrageous that we have reached this stage.
Deputy Broughan continues to try and ascertain the numbers of people being seriously injured on our roads following calls from cycling advocates and road safety groups such as PARC (Promoting Awareness Responsibility and Care on our Roads). Earlier this week, in a press release on the matter, Deputy Broughan revealed that the Road Safety Authority’s figures on serious injury due to road traffic collisions (RTCs) were:
561 serious injuries in 2010;
472 serious injuries in 2011;
Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: I am grateful for the opportunity to speak briefly on this very important motion on reimbursing staff of section 39 agencies. I raised the issue several times in this House during 2017 and, in particular, in support of the claims of the workers of the Irish Wheelchair Association. I made several representations to the Ministers for Health and Public Expenditure and Reform and, indeed, to the Taoiseach during Leaders’ Questions on 21 June last year. The Taoiseach, of course, gave the usual disingenuous answer by saying he would take a dim view of any organisation that used its block grant to give the proper increases to its workforce. I also wrote to the Taoiseach and to the Ministers, Deputies Donohoe and Harris, on 19 December asking that they intervene and provide the requisite additional funding to the HSE urgently. I also raised the matter at the Committee on Budgetary Oversight in the context of budget 2018.
Deputy Broughan welcomed news today that there is a 12% increase in counsellors/therapists employed by the HSE since December 2015. In a reply to a Parliamentary Question received from the HSE today, that there were 207 (WTE = whole time equivalent) counsellors/therapists employed nationwide by the HSE at the end of 2015 and that in June 2017 that figure stood at 232 WTE. Deputy Broughan has recently been asking about the staffing and resources available in our mental health sector.