Local TD Brian Walsh is to meet Health Minister Dr James Reilly in a bid to fasttrack the appointment of a hearing specialist locally.
More than 1,000 children under five years in Galway cannot receive treatment for hearing problems or get hearing aids as a result of the ongoing failure to fill the senior audiological scientist position nearly a decade after it first became vacant.
Deputy Walsh says his move follows the latest unsuccessful attempt by the HSE to fill the vacancy.
“It is outrageous that Galway has been starved of a specialist who can provide such vital services for almost 10 years and serious questions have to be asked about the repeated failure by the HSE to fill the post.
“Failure to identify and address hearing deficits in children at the earliest stage possible has dire consequences and can impact on a child’s communication ability, social skills and learning capacity.”
He says the National Audiological Review, published by the HSE earlier this year, warned that the consequences of failing to identify and address hearing impairments in children in a timely manner would be “devastating for the child and family”.
“No children can be treated for hearing problems before the age of five in Galway due to the absence of a highly trained specialist, and the number of children waiting for audiological services in the county has swelled to more than 1,200.”
He outlines two candidates for the senior audiological scientist position were interviewed and another two were waiting to be called when the moratorium on recruitment came into force in March 2009.
“A special dispensation was granted to recruit a specialist last year and interviews were held in December. However, the two candidates who were identified as suitable for the position accepted posts elsewhere.
“The post was re-advertised in March but it is understood that two applicants who were deemed suitable for the job again rejected the offers.”
Deputy Walsh says the failure to fill the position is denying children with hearing impairment a fair start and equal opportunity in education.
“It is also causing their parents and families a great deal of distress. It is nonsensical if it is the case that a shortage of resources is preventing the recruitment of a qualified specialist because the lack of timely intervention is costing the taxpayer more in health, education and social care – and the National Audiology Review attests to that fact.”