'Nurse shortage is putting babies at risk', claims worried mother
A mother whose baby had to wait more than a year for his routine developmental checks says newborns are being put at risk.
Jennifer (31), who did not want to give her full name, said she was stunned when she was told there were no appointments available due to staff shortages.
The young mum from Ballymun said the only time her son Noah was seen by a public health nurse was when he was six weeks old.
However, the married civil servant became increasingly concerned that something was wrong when he was not crawling around like other babies as he approached his first birthday.
"I was worried," she told the Herald. "I rang the public health nurse and said 'I'm really concerned. He's not crawling and doing other things he should be'."
Baby Noah, now 15 months old, was given the all-clear when the nurse managed to "squeeze him in" for an appointment a fortnight later.
However, his mother said it is not good enough that babies are being left in limbo due to a nursing shortage. While she would have taken Noah to a GP if she was really concerned, Jennifer said some mothers may find out too late that something is wrong with their babies.
"There are a lot of young mums around here and I would be worrying about a child that has something wrong that is not being picked up," she said.
"If I hadn't rung, I wouldn't have been contacted."
Free developmental checks by a public health nurse are generally carried out at nine, 18, and 24 months to check a baby's eyesight, hearing, motor development, vocalisation and general growth, according to the Citizens Information Board.
But local city councillor Noeleen Reilly (SF) said she was contacted by other local mums whose toddlers have not had developmental checks beyond the first one.
"Parents haven't been getting those appointments which is a big issue, especially if something is wrong," she said.
She passed on her concerns to Sinn Fein TD Denise Mitchell, who raised the matter in the Dail.
"Due to staff vacancies, there have been delays in child developmental appointments being sent to parents," said HSE general manager Michelle Forde. "Cases are prioritised and every effort is being made to ensure that priorities are met and all available resources are utilised to ensure that a service is maintained."
She said nurses were being redeployed to address the problem. "We are also working hard to recruit nurses."