Gran Canaria Y Tenerife they are delaying assistance to part of the 9,000 children who require early attention by not having correctly applied the referral protocols established in the Canarian Law of 2019. This has been warned by the representatives of the Platform for early care and children’s rights (Patdi) to the regional government in a meeting attended by both the directors of the three areas involved (Health, Social Rights and Education) and the regional president, Ángel Víctor Torres.
“Tenerife and Gran Canaria are not referring children correctly”, explains Ana Olmeda, secretary of the association. And it is that in these two islands the little ones still have to go first through the specialized services in pediatrics or mental health of the hospital system before being able to reach the Early Care Units. This protocol is not in line with the obligations of the Autonomous Community Law, which, in its article 11, insists that the referral to these services should be carried out directly by the hospital care physician or the primary care paediatrician. This problem is even more visible in the capital islands because in Fuerteventura and La Palma – the two islands where units were set up -, “yes it is working correctly”, as Olmeda points out.
In the eyes of the platform, this is related to the centralization of this service in health management, which is hampering the possibility of correctly coordinating early care. In this sense, during the meeting, the Minister of Health, Blas Trujillo, undertook to designate a person to coordinate the units, in such a way that assistance is decentralized from hospitals and health management.
In all units there is a need for a psychomotor professional and in Gran Canaria there is an unfilled psychologist position
Units are also poorly staffed, and in some cases poorly resourced. In all the units a psychomotricist professional is needed, while in the Gran Canaria unit the position for a clinical psychologist has not been filled for a year. Although, as Trujillo recently indicated in the Parliament of the Canary Islands, the lack of psychologists in the Canary Islands is a “conductive element that worries us”, the association believes that part of the obstacles could be solved if the selection of personnel were more open instead of of internal promotion among the staff of the Canary Islands Health Service (SCS). This, in addition, “is causing these squares to present the one that suits them”, points out Olmeda, who insists that “it could be someone who has not worked with children in his life or who does not have the appropriate specialty.” And although he insists that the professionals are “very good at what they do”, this lack of training in Early Intervention worries families. “ESSCAN offered a two-month training but that does not replace the experience of five years or the postgraduate degree required by law as an entry requirement,” insisted the representative of the Association.
Faced with this problem, the Executive has raised the possibility of making a specific call to cover the places in the Early Care Units by decree, with an open call and not linked to the Management of the reference hospitals. The Minister of Social Policies, Noemí Santana, offered to write a draft call to submit for the consideration of the Presidency.
For the Association, it is the lack of a financial record that has hampered the development of this service in the Canary Islands. “From the beginning, the law was contemplated without funding, which has complicated its implementation in the Islands,” Olmeda highlights. This, in turn, is what causes the lack of sufficient manning, which in some units is clearer than in others. The one in Fuerteventura, for example, lacks the physical materials to assess children. The Executive has admitted the difficulties caused by this lack of a fixed budget, but promised to speak with the Ministry of Finance to evaluate the budget, in such a way that the personnel and resource problems suffered by the units can be solved.
Finally, the platform commented on the lack of educational resources for the school to be truly inclusive. The Minister of Education accepted the proposal to create a Specific TA Team of the Platform, considering that it is the right time given that the next academic year begins in some public schools the schooling of 2 to 3 years and would facilitate the early detection of disorders development.
Questions and answers
How many units are there?
Although the Early Care Law came into force on April 26, 2019, the Canary Islands launched the first units until July 1, 2020, pointing out that the delays were caused by the coronavirus crisis. On December 13, 2020, the one in La Palma was opened and on June 17, 2021, the one in Fuerteventura was enabled. This year it is planned to open four more distributed between Gran Canaria, Tenerife, El Hierro and La Gomera.
How many children are served?
The Early Care Units of the Archipelago care for about 300 children. The Association estimates that there are at least 9,000 minors who require this type of assistance. As indicated by the Minister of Health, Blas Trujillo, it is estimated that after the pandemic, 20% of children and young people suffer from some mental health problem, and 5% are serious; although it is true that not all of them become disabilities.