Saturday 21 April 2018

2,400 children on trolleys as beds shortage hits youngest

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Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

More than 2,400 children endured the distress of waiting on a trolley for a bed last year as the "winter crisis" turned into a 12-month ordeal.

The young patients had to tolerate the trolley waits as Our Lady's Hospital and Temple Street Hospital in Dublin ran out of beds.

The stark annual figures, released for the first time by the HSE, show the shocking extent to which the trolley crisis is now affecting vulnerable unwell children.

The children were on trolleys at 8am during the daily count by the HSE, according to a parliamentary response obtained by Sinn Féin TD Louise O'Reilly.

It comes as patients across the country are seeing no let-up in severe A&E overcrowding this week.

There were 591 patients, many of them over 75 years of age, lined up on trolleys in hospitals nationwide, including 51 in Cork University Hospital yesterday.

The dangerous levels of overcrowding are not abating despite a dramatic drop in levels of flu which had been adding to the surge.

The insight into Crumlin and Temple Street hospitals shows children ended up on trolleys every month.

Some 51 children waited on a trolley in Crumlin hospital in August and this climbed to 130 last December.

The pattern is similar in Temple Street Hospital, ranging from 47 on trolleys in August to 172 in December.

HSE figures revealed six children were on trolleys in both hospitals yesterday morning.

Viruses

A spokeswoman for the Children's Hospital Group said it regretted "any waits children and their families have in our emergency departments".

She said the emergency departments at both hospitals were "seeing an increase in patients presenting with gastro-intestinal symptoms, requiring isolation rooms".

"Some young infants and children with these viruses can become very unwell, requiring supportive treatment and hospital admission.

"In the interest of patient safety and to manage the risk of infecting other patients on open wards, a number of patients will continue to be treated in our A&Es until a suitable inpatient bed becomes available on a ward."

Due to the obstacles posed by the two old buildings "and in order to make improvements to help address some of these physical constraints", proposals were submitted to HSE for funding as part of winter planning.

"We await the outcome of this," she added.

Clinical directors and hospital management in the three children's hospitals are making "every effort" to minimise the time spent by children in A&E once a doctor deems they should be moved to a ward.

Promises by Health Minister Simon Harris that measures would ease the congestion have not materialised. Mr Harris was busy on the campaign trail for a Yes vote in the abortion referendum yesterday.

One of the key pledges was to provide more home care supports and packages.

However, the HSE told Mary Butler, Fianna Fáil spokeswoman on older people, that the waiting list for a home care package had now risen to 6,172.

"This is a staggering number of people," she said.

The areas covering Galway, Roscommon and Mayo, as well as the northside of Dublin, are particularly badly hit.

These account for more than 45pc of all those waiting in the country.

Irish Independent

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