I welcome the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Jim Daly, and thank him for coming here to discuss such an important issue. Tomorrow is World MS Day and in the past I was very involved in the Limerick and mid-west committee of the MS Society, so I am very aware of its needs. In 2014, the approved recommended number of MS nurses for those diagnosed not only in Limerick but in the mid west was three. Currently, the figure is zero. In 2014, approval was given by the Department but it was very hard to recruit people at that time and it just did not happen. It is now 2018 and the number of patients is growing. There will be an MS awareness day in the mid-west offices tomorrow and people have been invited along to highlight the lack of an MS nurse.
The nurse is responsible for giving advice when symptoms arise with MS patients and is very knowledgeable. Currently, people in the mid west who are diagnosed with MS have to contact a clinical nurse in Cork or Galway and obviously those nurses have their own waiting lists and patients, so it is not always feasible that the patient receives help or support within the timeframe required. Many calls are made to the MS office where there the staff comprises social workers and administrators. These are not clinical nurses or qualified multiple sclerosis nurses and they are not able to deal with the issues and queries. This is a big issue.
The number of people being diagnosed has grown. University Hospital Limerick contacted the Multiple Sclerosis Society this morning to say it would be prioritising this in the coming year but there was no indication that it would be looking to appoint somebody. As I already said, the current recommendation is that there should be three nurses in the area but there is none. I would like to hear the Minister of State's opinion on this issue.