I acknowledge that the current time to access Occupational Therapy services in North Dublin, and indeed nationally, can be too long and that this may cause anxiety for parents and patients who are seeking to obtain services.
The fact that people are waiting too long to access therapy services such as OT is a reflection of the historical under-investment in the primary and community sector in Ireland. The Government is committed to addressing this deficit and transforming how we deliver health services by implementing the vision set out in the Sláintecare Action Plan. I am determined that we develop a more comprehensive and integrated community and primary care system and shift the focus of our system so that the majority of healthcare is provided, where possible, either at home or close to home in the community.
The Government’s commitment to reform can be seen in Budget 2020 with the allocation of €10m to provide for the enhancement of Community Services, building to a full-year allocation of €60m in 2021. This significant investment by Government will enable the recruitment of up to 1,000 therapists, nurses and other frontline staff. North Dublin, like the rest of the country, will benefit from this investment which will support the development of a more integrated and comprehensive primary and community care system.
Turning specifically to the situation in North Dublin, I understand that the recruitment of six OTs has been approved by the local Head of Service for Primary Care to fill vacancies that currently exist. Derogation from temporary employment controls has been sought and once received all vacant posts will be offered out as appropriate and without delay. It is expected that waiting time swill be reduced significantly once extra resources are in place.
I also understand that North Dublin, along with other CHOs, are implementing local action plans to address waiting times and that these include a focus on long waiters, cross cover arrangements and maximisation of the supports available from administrative staff and OT Assistants.