Cork families under pressure as disability services stall during Covid-19 pandemic

Cork families under pressure as disability services stall during Covid-19 pandemic
Ellie Boyhan, with her, sister Eve Boyhan, mum, Amy Glennon and dad John Boyhan.Picture: Jim Coughlan.

CORK parents desperate to provide vital therapy for their children who have physical, sensory and intellectual disabilities have been put under huge pressure during the Covid-19 pandemic.

These services had previously been provided by Enable Ireland, which has just this week begun to reopen after being closed since March. The charity, which works with 8,500 children and adults has not reopened its facilities since March due to a lack of finances to source PPE and introduce Covid safety measures.

In a fundraising message to families affected, the charity said fundraising is severely affected, with planned events postponed and charity shops closed.

One mother, Elaine Kehily, said her three-year-old daughter, Beth O’Riordan, who used to get weekly physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and hydrotherapy at Enable Ireland is now seeing a private physiotherapist since they reopened at the end of May. “Anybody who can afford to go private has had to do that, but even a therapist was telling me she knows families who have had to take out private loans to pay for private treatment in the meantime and she even told me an awful story about a woman who had to pawn her wedding ring to pay for therapy for their daughter,” Elaine said.

Amy Glennon and her husband Boyhan, with daughters Ellie and Eve.Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Amy Glennon and her husband Boyhan, with daughters Ellie and Eve.Picture: Jim Coughlan.

Carrigaline mother Amy Glennon, who used to send her three-year-old Ellie Boyhan who has cerebral palsy to physiotherapy and occupational therapy with Enable Ireland, said it is very frustrating for a lot of families.

Ms Glennon, who is currently sending her daughter to private physiotherapy, said without going private her child would not have any of the much-needed sessions. “Since March, Ellie has had no physiotherapy or occupational therapy. They are in contact with us via video link every two weeks, but it is just not the same.” Amy said she recently received a letter to say that due to lack of HSE funds, there is no Enable Ireland facility opening any time soon.

“The HSE don’t have the proper funding and the proper protocols in place to reopen Enable Ireland. It is such a pity, They have a lovely purpose-built building in Curraheen, the therapists want us in and they know it is the best thing for the children, there is an awful lot of disappointment there.”

Ms Glennon said it was very frustrating for all families in Enable Ireland that private therapy can operate but Enable Ireland can’t.

“What gets me is that your child is diagnosed with a physical need, a physical disability and your child is referred to Enable Ireland, Enable Ireland is a fantastic support, but they are a charity, totally reliant on Government funding and donations.

“Is there something wrong with the fact that your child has a disability and they are reliant on a charity to help them? It should be a given that they would have PPE given to them, that they would be made Covid ready and that they would open up as soon as possible.”

Enable Ireland's children's centre, the Lavanagh Centre, Curraheen, Cork.Picture Denis Minihane.
Enable Ireland's children's centre, the Lavanagh Centre, Curraheen, Cork.Picture Denis Minihane.

A spokesperson for Enable Ireland said the Lavanagh Centre in Cork has begun reopening in its first phase this week, running an occupation therapy clinic for a number of children.

The statement said: “Staff, who have completed their Covid-19 training, are returning to the centre to prepare caseloads for their clinics and therapy sessions.

“This week, we are running two physiotherapy clinics and we will continue with the implementation of our phased return over the coming weeks.

“We hope to increase our centre-based services in a manner that is in line with Public Health and HSE guidance and will ensure a safe environment for everyone.” The statement also said they were aware things would be slightly different in the coming weeks and months due to Covid. “We know that the resumption of services will be different to our pre-Covid-19 service delivery and will require additional financial support to cover the costs of PPE and cleaning requirements, etc. Funding for these additional costs from the HSE will be critical to continuing with our re-opening plans.”

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