The state of the health service, particularly in Louth, is being laid bare by the Covid-19 crisis, according to Sinn Féin TD Ruairí Ó Murchú who raised a number of health-related issues in Leinster House last week.
The lack of testing centres in Dundalk and Drogheda, uncertainty over the future of St John of God services in Louth and deficiencies in the delivery of mental healthcare were highlighted by the TD.
Deputy Ó Murchú said that it is accepted that we will be dealing with Covid-19 for at least six to nine months and Louth is among the counties with high infection rates at present.
He said: ‘I reiterate that somebody must examine areas such as Dundalk and north County Louth, which has problems at present with an increase in cases. However, the test centre is moving to Ardee. That must be examined. In fairness, Deputy Imelda Munster has been strongly urging that Drogheda also needs a test centre. These are two major urban areas’.
There also needs to be sufficient stocks of flu vaccine and, crucially, the capacity in healthcare settings to administer it, he said.
In addition, non-Covid related health issues were raised by Deputy Ó Murchú. He said: ‘I previously raised the dental treatment services scheme, DTSS. I have been contacted by a number of people who use these services and also use intellectual disability services.
‘There are far fewer dental practitioners using the scheme at present. It is a difficulty for anybody who has a medical card. It requires action and a delivery plan because there does not appear to be a solution at present. We have all heard the horror stories about children in very bad circumstances’.
The news that St John of God Community Services will cease its involvement in the provision of community services by 1 October 2021, including in Louth has caused ‘huge worry’ for families in the constituency, he said.
Mr Ó Murchú told the Dáil: ‘A large number of people will be impacted, including workers. Families are incredibly worried about whether the service provision will happen. We must get some type of solution. I am thinking of the families, the service users and the workers in places such Drumcar and the St. John of God Venegas Centre in Dundalk’.
And he asked for Ministers of State Ann Rabbitte and Mary Butler, who have responsibility for mental health care, to consider meeting some Louth families impacted by suicide.
He said: ‘Perhaps the Minister of State would be good enough to meet some of the families to hear about their issues, because it is an ongoing situation and we need to provide some clarity on protocols and a solution that facilitates a service that people deserve. I would be grateful if that could happen as quickly as possible’.
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