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800 chemotherapy appts for children cancelled, Dáil told

A quarter of a million hospital appointments were cancelled last year, including 800 chemotherapy appointments for children, the Dáil has heard.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said the cancellation of children’s chemotherapy appointments must be “unimaginable” for worried parents.

She told the Dáil there was a lack of beds in hospitals and that more doctors were needed.

She called for 3,000 new hospital and community beds, along with the lifting of the recruitment embargo.

Taoiseach Simon Harris said waiting times were improving in the health service, but he acknowledged that there was a “hell of a long way to go”.

He said there were 28,000 more people working in the health service since the last general election, adding that 2,200 staff could be hired this year.

He said he wanted parents of sick children to know that the Government would continue to invest more resources in the health service.

Deputy McDonald accused Mr Harris of “playing to the gallery” in his response to her party’s questions in the Dáil today.

“Really, I mean if this is what we are reduced to – the Taoiseach scouring peoples’ websites and playing to the gallery, the television’s audience at home,” she said.

She rejected an earlier comment from Mr Harris about the availability of Sinn Féin’s health policy on its website.

Raising the concerns of parents whose children are waiting for spinal operations, she said they were “not interested in smart alec responses from anybody”.

“I appreciate your pledge not to engage in smart alecky comments,” Mr Harris responded, adding that he was “very happy” to meet the parents concerned “in the next couple of weeks”.

Mr Harris also revealed that the Minister for Health told him yesterday that they were “working on a number of options” around treatment abroad.

Govt ‘failing’ neurodiverse children

Labour leader Ivana Bacik accused the Government of failing neurodiverse children and their families.

She told the Dáil that her party had put down a private members motion a year ago which included a call for action in addressing the backlog in assessments.

“As we all know, receiving a diagnosis is a just a first step,” Deputy Bacik said, adding that a “lack of diagnosis deprives children and their families of clarity.”

Ms Bacik said the HSE’s waiting lists were a huge part of the problem and that many families could not afford to pay for private assessments for their children, as they often cost in excess of €200.

She said Simon Harris had promised to break down the silos between departments to address the backlog in assessments.

“if this was really a serious commitment, would you not establish a standalone Cabinet committee on disability?” she asked.

The Taoiseach said the Cabinet Committee on Disability and Children would meet again on Monday.

“This will involve me chairing a Cabinet committee on disability issues once a month,” he added.

Mr Harris said it was worth mentioning that workforce planning was key in terms of therapy posts in Ireland, saying there were not enough training places in Irish universities for speech and language and occupational therapy.

He said he would like to look at in-school therapies, adding that there were some pilot schemes ongoing in this area.

Reporting by Mícheál Lehane, Juliette Gash

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