THE mother of a physically disabled three-year-old Southside boy has said a lengthy waiting list for specialist equipment that could help him walk will significantly restrict her son’s ability to become independently mobile.
Families whose children need specially made orthotic shoes and splints claim they have been told by the HSE in Dun Laoghaire that there is currently an eight-month waiting list for the equipment because of budget cuts.
Miriam Murphy, from Ballybrack, is the mother of Uisneach O’Nualainn, who suffers from a rare congenital disorder known as 1p36 deletion syndrome.
Because of the disorder, Uisneach is not independently mobile and needs support from an Ankle and Foot Orthotics (AFOs) splint to enable him to stand for short periods or even to take a few steps.
Miriam explained that Uisneach has been wearing an AFO splint for the last 18 months but she noted that the splint is now too small for his growing feet.
She said that in September she was told by health officials at the HSE office on Tivoli Road in Dun Laoghaire that they were then only processing applications for the AFOs that were made in February of this year.
She said that this meant there was a seven to eight month long waiting list for the aids.
Miriam explained that Uisneach receives regular physiotherapy for his condition but pointed out that he cannot undergo the treatment if he is not wearing the AFO splint.
She now fears that the progress her son made in walking in recent months could be severely inhibited if the HSE does not provide him with a new splint, which she said would cost about e800 in Uisneach’s case.
“At the moment with the AFOs on, he can stand for about 45 minutes,” she said, “But that is down to about two or three minutes without them. He wasn’t able to hold his own weight without the splint because his ankles buckled. His hips began to splay and he couldn’t stand anymore.
“He won’t actually be able to do his physiotherapy sessions because he has to have his AFOs on to get any benefit from that.”
She said the family had not considered buying the expensive splints privately because they cannot afford the cost due to their current financial situation.
Miriam explained that she and her husband are both working part-time and are footing the majority of the €65,000 it will cost to convert the ground floor of their home to accommodate Uisneach’s disability.
“We did not look into whether we could get a splint ourselves because it costs €800,” she added. “And that would be an annual cost.”
Jane Courtney, from Dalkey, is the mother of four-year-old Oscar Courtney, who suffers from Down Syndrome.
Because of his condition Oscar needs orthotic shoes for his feet. His mother said that she was also told by the HSE in Dun Laoghaire that she too faced a lengthy wait for the equipment because of budget cuts.
Deputy Aengus O’Snodaigh (SF) raised the case of Uisneach in the Dail recently.
“This is a ridiculous situation whereby children are being prevented from being independently mobile by illogical cutbacks,” he told Southside People.
In a statement a spokesperson for the HSE said: “Currently there is a waiting list system in place for shoes and orthotics in the DSE [Dublin South East] /Wicklow area, operating within the available allocated budget.
“All requests/applications are prioritised by the relevant therapy manager and wait listed.”