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Concerns over availability of Irish language speech therapists

The HSE has 12 speech and language therapists who work through Irish, according to figures released to Irish language organisation Conradh na Gaeilge.

A Conradh na Gaeilge spokesperson told the Medical Independent (MI) it had been raising issues regarding availability of Irish language services in healthcare, and particularly speech and language therapy. “We are looking to have a meeting with the HSE leader of Irish language services to discuss this issue and other issues regarding Irish language services to patients,” said the spokesperson.

According to a Freedom of Information (FoI) response it received from the HSE last November, there was one speech and language therapist with Irish in Co Donegal (North West Gaeltacht and Letterkenny University Hospital); two in Co Mayo (Castlebar); six in Co Galway (Connemara and University Hospital Galway); two in Co Roscommon (Roscommon town); and one in Co Kerry (An Daingean).

Conradh na Gaeilge raised with the HSE the fact that the phoneme system in Irish was different from English. In its FoI response, the HSE stated: “The therapists that work through Irish understand the difference between the two phoneme systems and they have an understanding on the phonology and grammar issues.  There is ongoing research about the subject in co-operation with NUI Galway.”  On whether there were third-level courses providing training on Irish language speech and language therapy services, the HSE said it “gives clinical experience to students who wish to work through Irish by dealing with Irish-language patients in the Gaeltacht or hospitals close to the Gaeltacht”.

The HSE told MI it continues to implement the HSE West Language Scheme, which came into effect on 1 September 2005.

“Language schemes are to be replaced with language standards according to the Action Plan 2018-2022 published last year by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht,” added the HSE spokesperson.  “This plan is linked to the Government’s 20-year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010-2030. The HSE is currently awaiting guidance from the Government regarding the new language standards, which we understand are currently being drafted.” A Department of Health spokesperson commented: “The Department’s Language Scheme 2015-2018 is currently under review. A public consultation

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