HSE refuses request for special shoes for boy (3)
A THREE-year-old Dublin boy, who has grown out of the special shoes he needs to walk properly, has been told by the HSE he cannot have new ones until next year.
Alex Smith, who lives in Kilmacud, has Down syndrome and as a result has hypotonia, or low muscle tone.
“It means his muscles are lax and he needs really hard, customised boots to stabilise his ankles,” his mother Cathy explains. “He can’t wear ordinary shoes. His ankles turn in and it affects his posture. He wouldn’t be able to walk properly. We want him to be able to walk well and to walk tall. We want him to be the best he can be.
“His feet are just squashed into the boots he has on now. To buy they cost about €400 and we just can’t afford that. We’re a young family.”
She said Alex’s physiotherapist at St John of God’s in Glenageary had sent a request to the HSE in Dún Laoghaire, for a cheque to order the shoes, two months ago.
“She said to me at the time that we’d send in the request but said nothing was moving in the HSE. I heard nothing and so I called the HSE myself. They said they’d get back to me and they didn’t.
“And I called again and they said they were not sanctioning money for anything, not even wheelchairs, at the moment. They said the budget for the year had been spent. It’s ridiculous. It’s a disgrace.
“If he doesn’t get the shoes soon it will set him back. It will delay him.”
Other families were in the same situation, she said.
“And it’s not just shoes. It’s a wide range of aids and appliances for children with disabilities which the HSE has just stopped providing because they say they have no money.
“But there must be money somewhere. They can find money for other things but they say they can’t for children with disabilities. Do we have to go and sit outside Leinster House with our children to get what they need, what they deserve? If Alex had been born in the 1930s or 1940s, these aids would not be available for him and he wouldn’t have a chance to walk properly, but he does have a chance now. The aids are out there and he should have them. He has a right to them.”
A spokeswoman said the HSE did not comment on individual cases, but that the executive was required to operate within its budget. She said a spending review was ongoing to identify efficiencies “in all areas including aids and appliances.”
Shane Ross, the Independent TD in Ms Smith’s constituency,described the case as “quite disgraceful”. He tabled a parliamentary question on Alex’s situation this week.
“This is an absolute cast-iron case. The child needs these shoes and for the sake of €400 he could have them. You see the enormous salaries being paid to people at the top and then you see people on the ground having to pay for it like this. It highlights the utter injustice of what’s going on in this country.
“I am all for cutting spending and reforming the HSE but there has to be a better way than this,” Mr Ross said.