The Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) consultant left the North Lee North team and has yet to be permanently replaced, meaning the team has been without a permanent consultant since February 2018.
The lack of a consultant saw waiting lists for CAMHS in the region close last summer and led to calls for reform of the system.
The HSE told The Echo that “strenuous efforts” to fill this vacancy in Cork, including repeated advertising and the use of recruitment agencies both nationally and internationally, have been unsuccessful.
Recent figures show that almost 150 children were waiting to be seen by CAMHS in the area, a decrease since the start of 2019 when almost 250 were on the waiting lists.
Local GP Sarah Sheehan said the lack of a permanent consultant and sporadic closures of waiting lists are having a major impact on children and their parents.
“This is affecting the city’s most vulnerable children with mental health issues,” she said.
“In the worst case scenario where a child is suicidal we have no choice but to send them to A&E where they often have to wait for hours in a completely unsuitable environment for an assessment,” she added.
“This is obviously very distressing for their parents as well.
“It’s very difficult to explain this awful situation to families in crisis.” Dr Sheehan added that there has been various locum consultants to provide cover but never a long term solution since last February.
A spokesperson for Cork/Kerry Community Healthcare said that the locum cover has actually led to the decrease in those waiting for CAMHS services in the region since January this year.
“We sincerely regret any delays in accessing the CAMHS service,” the spokesperson added.
“As always, local GPs are the first point of contact for any mental health concerns.
“GPs can refer to CAMHS or Adult Mental Health Services accordingly if required,” she said.
“On call psychiatry services are available through the emergency departments for those presenting in crisis.” The delays in finding a permanent CAMHS consultant in the area was put down to a shortage of consultants across Europe.
“We are pleased to confirm that recruitment is now at an advanced stage for a Consultant Psychiatrist with the North Lee North team,” said the spokesperson.
“In the meantime, we have also provided a limited level of locum Consultant cover in recent months and this will continue.”