The cancellation of “critical” public health check-ups for young babies is “hugely concerning” for young parents.
On The Hard Shoulder this evening, broadcaster Rebecca Horan said the HSE is not carrying out routine developmental assessments on babies in her area due to “unprecedented staff shortages”.
The assessments are generally carried out by public health nurses at four stages in a baby’s young life – three months, nine to 11 months, 18 to 24 months and three years.
They are considered crucial check-ups for children and can be instrumental in uncovering underlying developmental problems at an early stage.
Ms Horan told The Hard Shoulder that her baby is now ten months old and has yet to be seen by a HSE public health nurse.
“The check-ups that I did want to get done […] I actually paid for in our local doctor’s surgery because I was concerned,” she said.
“I have another child and she would have been seen a number of times, so it is actually hugely concerning.
“It seems to be an issue in this country to have a forgotten generation of children, especially with this kind of COVID excuse. It’s happening again now, and I just think it is a disgrace.
“A number of parents I have spoken to have concerns about developmental checks, hitting milestones, their child maybe being on the autism spectrum or dyspraxia – so it is really a minefield and it’s very concerning.”
— Rebecca Horan (@HoranBex) June 30, 2022
Ms Horan said the HSE told her to get in contact if she had specific concerns about her child’s health, but otherwise she could read up on her child’s development herself.
“You can get on the HSE, you can push, you can ask this and that – but they refer you back to a book,” she said.
“A textbook that I think has been published to keep people out of these services and to get them to refer to this massive book.
“What if you haven’t a notion? I mean none of us are experts; we might think we’re all experts as parents, but we’re absolutely not. None of us know exactly what’s going on so referring to a book is not going to help us if we’re completely lost when it comes to developmental issues.
“You’re talking about audiology, hitting milestones, crawling, issues with hips. I have a friend whose child had a club foot; she never knew why her child wasn’t attempting to walk, it was discovered too late and she had to pay for a paediatrician.
“It’s insane I don’t understand it at all.”
Also on the show, Dr Susan Kent, Associate Professor of Nursing, Midwifery and Community and Public Health at DCU said the first two checks in particular are “absolutely critical” for young children.
“One of the biggest checks that is done at three and nine months is the hip check for the child to ensure there is no hip dysplasia which could end up in the child having issues with their mobility and walking,” she said. “That usually requires some form of orthopaedic intervention.
“They are critical checks that are done at three and nine months for a baby, but it goes into bigger checks in relation to looking at the child’s communication and their speech, their comprehension, their mobility sleeping and their emotional and social screening.”
In a statement, the HSE said many Public Health Nurses have been redeployed to COVID-related healthcare since the pandemic began.
It said the redeployment has had a “significant impact” on its ability to deliver the core child health screening and surveillance programme over the last two years.
It said a “prioritisation framework” is now in place, which sees services focused on “patients who have the greatest need and enabling staff to be deployed where necessary to support these patients.”
The statement says child development checks remain a priority for the HSE and it intends to return to full services “as soon as is safe and practicable”.
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