Sick children left on trolleys as hospital bed shortage bites
Published 23/02/2012 | 05:00
SICK children are waiting for more than 24 hours on A&E department trolleys before being admitted to wards at two of the country's biggest children's hospitals.
And a leading consultant warned last night that overcrowding at Temple Street Hospital and Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin could last for two more months.
Professor Ronan O'Sullivan, emergency consultant at Crumlin, warned that March and April could be as bad "if not worse" than earlier this winter for both departments.
There are 25 beds closed in Crumlin and 10 are also out of bounds in Temple Street due to budget cuts, forcing children who should be admitted to a ward to stay in the emergency department.
"These children could have illnesses like asthma, chest infections, fever, meningitis or gastronenteritis. They should be admitted to a bed and may be in need of oxygen, intravenous fluids or ongoing therapy," Prof O'Sullivan said.
Staff are having to treat these children on trolleys when they should be in a hospital bed -- and while also caring for other youngsters in an emergency who need to be seen.
Prof O'Sullivan said this created a risk and "doing two jobs" was clearly unsafe.
The numbers of children on trolleys who need a bed has risen by 700pc in little over three years and there can be 12 to 13 of these patients in Crumlin A&E overnight.
"We only have 12 clinical treatment spaces. This comes at a time when hospitals are under pressure to increase the numbers of planned operations for patients on waiting lists."
Occasionally a child suffering from cancer comes through A&E, but is usually given a bed as quickly as possible.
However, the rate at which children are leaving without being seen is also increasing.
"If the beds were opened for short periods of time there would be short-term relief.
"We need short-stay units and this could be done at low capital cost or reopening a ward."
The most recent figures for Temple Street Hospital show that over seven days, three children were on trolleys for more than 24 hours, 48 endured a wait for 11 to 24 hours and 33 were delayed for up to 10 hours.
Around 9pc of the 51,000 patients seen in its emergency department last year waited more than six hours.
One of the knock-on effects has been that some planned operations on children who have been brought into hospital for surgery have been cancelled to make way for another who has come through the A&E.
The children's unit in Tallaght Hospital is not suffering overcrowding because beds have been opened.
The Department of Health, which now has a Special Delivery Unit to reduce A&E waits, said yesterday that the problems were linked to a surge in flu and respiratory illnesses, which were affecting the very old and very young.