*Violet-Anne Wynne. Photograph: Natasha Barton

WAITING TIMES of close to two years are being experienced by Clare children attempting to access psychiatrist help in the Mid-West region.

Speaking in the Dáil on Tuesday, Violet-Anne Wynne (IND) referenced a constituent by the name of John from Killaloe who has an eleven year old daughter called Livvy who is autistic and has a moderate learning disability, she was described as the TD as “suicidal” and having “multiple violent outbursts” daily.

Deputy Wynne highlighted the difficulties within the family, “At the start of the year, her behaviour took a downward spiral. She has been suspended from school, and attacks John, his partner, and her two brothers daily. Worse than that, she has recently started to say ‘I want to die’ during these meltdowns. She was seeing a psychiatrist in UHL who has now left, and she is waiting for 18 months for a new appointment.

After bringing his daughter to CAMHS, John was told it was “not the place for autistic children” and no private psychiatrists were recommended. “There is no psychiatrist for children with disabilities in the entire Mid-West. There’s a Dublin-based locum who’s here every six weeks and his office can’t confirm when she’ll be seen and will not prioritise her,” Deputy Wynne stated.

Minister of State at the Department of Health, Mary Butler (FF) advised the Clare TD that she could not comment on a specific case but was happy to speak with her about the matter offline.

In a statement to The Clare Echo, the Kilrush woman explained, “For parents of children with additional needs, they must become a champion and an advocate for their child and learn to navigate the minefields of the health system. This is no easy feat and it becomes even harder when you as a parent have an agency telling you that although they treat some varying degrees of neurodivergent children – they won’t treat your child. To have to scramble and find who is then supposed to treat your child proves to be another minefield. When the Minister for Mental Health can’t tell you where you’re supposed to bring a neurodivergent child with mental health difficulties it becomes a fairly scathing indictment of how impossible the system is to navigate”.

Recruitment and retention within CAMHS is an issue, the Clare TD flagged. “The Independent review into CAMHS earlier this year did not exactly inspire confidence in the ability of the agency to provide a service for children across the Mid-West. This not the fault of CAMHS but rather a concern with the leveraging of funding and resourcing on a regional basis. I understand that CAMHS Mid-West have identified a gap in their service provision with the lack of an Intellectual Disability Officer. This is a glaring oversight that I have asked to be rectified as soon as possible. As I understand it, there is a hope to have the intellectual Disability Officer and if this proves not to be the case then I will be raising the vacancy directly with the Minister”.

She added, “With respect to the lack of access to psychiatric services for young people with complex additional needs in the Mid-West, this is a huge chasm in service provision in the area. It is deeply worrying to think that consultant psychiatrists being forced into full-time private practice by the lack of resourcing in the Mid-West and again this is something that I have raised personally with the Minister for Health on numerous occasions”.

Relying on one locum coming down from Dublin for one day’s clinic every six weeks “is quite simply a disgrace” for the Mid-West region, Deputy Wynne commented. “The vacancy here represents another massive gap in access to healthcare across the Mid-West and speaks to the heart of just how the recruitment and retention crisis across the public service is hurting families and communities all across Ireland but some more than others. Due to the fact that we have only A&E in the region, it effects the ancillary services that we are entitled to like the amount of NCHDs. As the only region with one Model 4 hospital, we are only entitled to NCHDs to service that hospital, meaning any consultant psychiatrist working in this region would be doing disproportionately more than in any other part of the country”.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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