Increase in demand but reduced capacity; concerns raised about addiction treatment waiting times 

Increase in demand but reduced capacity; concerns raised about addiction treatment waiting times 

“A number of COVID-19 related factors have impacted on waiting lists for drug and alcohol detoxification such as reduced capacity in order to comply with public health guidance, restrictions on new entries and closures due to outbreaks.”

Concerns have been raised about waiting times for addiction treatment in Cork, following the news that dozens of people have had to wait for more than a month to get treatment at a Cork treatment centre in the last two years.

According to figures from the HSE, 23 women had to wait for between a month and three months to get a place for either community-based residential detoxification or long-stay residential treatment at the Cuan Mhuire facility in Farnanes.

At the end of March this year, the average waiting time was eight weeks.

Some 43 men had to wait more than a month to access the organisation’s secondary treatment centre for men on Western Rd in Cork City in the past two years. The average waiting time at the end of March was six weeks.

The figures were supplied by the HSE on foot of parliamentary questions put down by Sinn Féin’s spokesman on addiction, recovery and wellbeing, Thomas Gould TD.

Senior addiction counsellor at Cuan Mhuire, Mike Guerin, said that before the pandemic, the Farnanes centre had beds for eight clients in four double rooms, but this had to be halved since last year because of Covid-19 public health restrictions.

He said that throughout the Cuan Mhuire organisation across the country, the capacity has been reduced by 25%.

“We are now dealing with a 50% increase in demand but are operating at 75% capacity, which is unworkable." 

However, he praised the HSE for “working tirelessly with us, supporting us with PPE, vaccines etc”.

In his reply to Mr Gould’s question, Joseph Doyle, the HSE’s national lead in social inclusion, said: “A number of COVID-19 related factors have impacted on waiting lists for drug and alcohol detoxification such as reduced capacity in order to comply with public health guidance, restrictions on new entries and closures due to outbreaks.”

He added that the figures provide a “snapshot in time”, continuing: “Waiting lists are not necessarily an indication of need as there are instances where need-based priority cases can access residential treatment quicker.”

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