WEXFORD General Hospital has seen a notable increase in the numbers of children attending the Emergency Department with respiratory issues in recent weeks. A hospital source revealed that the Emergency Department has been “under pressure”, seeing upwards of 20 children per day in recent weeks.
Seemingly, this has partly informed hospital management’s decision to designate the new Emergency Department extension, which had sat idle for a number of months despite having been rushed to construction during Covid-19, as a dedicated children’s emergency unit, providing seven additional beds. This is regarded as being particularly important, with children mostly presenting with respiratory problems at the moment with Covid numbers also on the increase in the community.
A Consultant at the Emergency Department (ED), however, has revealed that, for the most part, Covid is not the issue in terms of the increase in children attending the ED.
"This has been going on for a number of weeks now,” he revealed. “We’ve had a significant number of children presenting with respiratory symptoms. Mostly it’s a common cold or bronchiolitis, viral complaints like that. Most are managed and discharged from the ED quite quickly. Staff there have been under pressure though, seeing upwards of 20 children per day.”
A big part of the problem appears to be parents inability to access GP care for their children, thus arriving at the hospital as a last resort. In recent weeks, social media has been filled with people stating that they’ve spent hours trying to get their local GP practice or Caredoc on the phone and in many cases, with their children’s condition seemingly deteriorating in front of them, worried they’ve taken the decision to bring them to Wexford General.
The Consultant in Emergency Medicine was reluctant to lay blame on the current pressure being faced by ED staff at the feet of GPs.
"I think GPs have been doing a tremendous job, there’s just a huge amount of patients,” he said. “They are very stretched at the moment. I would say that most emergencies are dealt with by GPs. What we’re finding is that most parents and children will arrive into the ED in the late afternoon or early evening. They’ll have tried all day, but couldn't get their GP.”
One local GP surgery, Dr David Curtis’ Sunnyside Medical Centre, addressed some of the complaints circulating on social media with their own post.
“It has come to our attention here in the surgery that there are several social media complaints regarding out surgery,” it said. “We would like to let our patients know that we, the doctors, nurses and staff are only human and are working tirelessly in these horrendously busy times.
"We are all living in and with this pandemic just like everyone else and doing our very, very best to do our jobs. We are tired and worn out, but we still carry on. All we is ask is for you to understand the strain that this has put on, not only our surgery, but every surgery and healthcare system in Ireland and the world.
"Please have patience,” the statement concluded. “We are doing our best and will continue to do our best. Please be kind.”
Meanwhile, with dialogue nationally now turning once again towards the significant pressure that will be faced by our hospitals as we move into winter and the possibility of them becoming “overwhelmed”, Wexford General is said to be coping reasonably well in difficult circumstances.
"I think management here are doing a great job,” the Emergency Medicine Consultant said. “They are recruiting extra staff, some really great staff at that. The problems are capacity and that there’s not enough beds, but that’s always been the case. There’s a lot of people presenting at the hospital at the moment and a lot in need of admission. This creates an issue of capacity in the hospital in general, not just the Emergency Department. Unfortunately, it leads to situations where we have people awaiting surgery etc delayed, which is not something we like to see.”