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Schools need new therapists ‘now’

Harry Matthie

The Bermuda Parent Teacher Student Association has called for immediate action to tackle the shortage of therapists in the Island’s schools.

Harry Matthie, the association’s chairman, said that the recruitment process was too long and new personnel were needed “now”.

Mr Matthie’s comments followed the announcement by the Department of Health that fewer therapists would be providing school based services in the upcoming year.

“The recruitment process takes too long. We need personnel now,” said Mr Matthie. “The consistent delivery of services to this group of students is crucial to their development. The Department of Health must be able to expeditiously address any further personnel shortages.

“There was a lack of learning support for the 2014 school year, our children are behind where they should be and thus we need more resources for 2015/2016.”

Earlier this month Jeanne Atherden, the Minister of Health, revealed that The Department of Health Therapy Services, which provides early intervention screening and programmes for 1,200 children each year, had been hit by staff departures. She acknowledged the situation was “less than ideal” and said the Ministry was doing its best to resolve the “challenge” as soon as possible.

But Mr Matthie told The Royal Gazette the BPTSA had set up a working group to find out more about the lack of learning support for the upcoming year and it had been involved in “a frank and constructive conversation” with the Director of Health, David Kendell and his team on July 17. He added: “It would be helpful to know of those therapists that have moved on with their careers, how many moved on because of the non-renewal of their contracts.

“It was stated (in the Ministry of Health’s press statement) that: “although wait lists do not currently exist”, but because children did not get the necessary services last year then they are still waiting this year.”

Mr Matthie said that parents also had a role to play and urged them to take their children to the Child Development Department to be screened as early as possible.

He said: “We can not expect the Department of Health to magically formulate the staffing numbers — they need to know who is coming into the system.

“Parents, you have to take the training that is going to be offered. The Health Department’s team has committed to getting more training for us. We must do our part at home.

“The Minister of Health has in her possession a proposal for increasing the learning support infrastructure as prepared by a concerned parent.

“This proposal has been passed onto the Allied Health Professionals’ local governing bodies for evaluation and we hope to be hearing their assessment of this system in due course.”