Senior gardaí and medics have called for increased parental supervision around teenage discos after a dozen drunk children — three of whom were unconscious and had to be hospitalised — arrived at an underage alcohol-free disco in West Cork.
Supt Brendan Fogarty said he had concerns about the pressure the incident put on garda and ambulance resources, who responded to the incident at Bandon Rugby Club.
“I don’t want to have to shut down such events but I do have a serious concern that seven gardaí and in particular, three ambulances, were tied up dealing with this,” Supt Fogarty said.
“I would also like to emphasise the need for parental supervision. Parents really do have to step up.”
Gardaí are investigating several public order incidents and an alleged assault arising out of the incident.
They detained three teenagers but when they contacted the parents of one, in Cork City, the parents told gardaí they weren’t in a position to travel to Bandon to collect their child and gardaí had to transport the child home.
Hundreds of teenagers from all over Cork descended on the rugby club last Friday night, with many arriving by hire buses from the city, and from towns across north and west Cork.
One teen was so drunk at a collection point in a north Cork town that he couldn’t board the bus. The driver called for an ambulance and the teen was brought to CUH.
The rugby club had several adults on duty to supervise, backed up by first aiders and nurses.
All disco goers were searched at the door for drink and drugs and anyone in an intoxicated state was refused entry.
Up to a dozen teens who arrived drunk were refused entry and directed to a dressing room where they were monitored. But it soon became clear that the club needed medical backup.
Dr Jason van der Velde said when he arrived around 9pm, they quickly identified those who needed “supportive care”.
He said two teens were “profoundly unconsciousness, couldn’t manage their own airways”, had low blood pressure, and had to be transported by ambulance to CUH, where they were detained overnight.
A fourth child, who was about to be transported to CUH by ambulance, regained consciousness after treatment, before he was escorted home by a parent.
Given how temperatures on the night plummeted to below zero, Dr van der Velde said the incident had the potential to become very serious.
“This was a large incident which had the ability to cause mayhem for the ambulance service and CUH. But dealing with it as we did, at the scene, averted a major incident,” he said.
Teenagers need a social outlet, he said, but the minority in this incident had, for whatever reasons, let their parents and their communities down.
He said he heard reports that some involved hid containers of alcohol in their socks and underwear, and he said it highlighted the need for parental supervision on the disco buses.
“You can’t expect a bus driver, who may be driving alone, to police them,” he said.
Dr Chris Luke, a consultant in emergency medicine at CUH and the Mercy University Hospital, described the nature of the incident as “jaw-dropping”.
“The medical staff, the paramedics performed miracles,” he told The Opinion Line on Cork’s 96fm yesterday.
But the father-of-four criticised the ‘my drink was spiked’ response of some parents and teenagers caught up in similar incidents.
He said such spiking incidents are rare in Ireland and he encounters such cases maybe once or twice a year.
“Parents need to understand that the greatest determinant, the greatest driver of teen drinking is the behaviour of the parent in the house, the culture within the house,” he said.
“I can’t tell you how upsetting it is for staff in hospitals to be working flat out, minding the young people of this country, only to be abused by parents who are alleging some mysterious third party spiked their teenager’s drink.
“If it were the case, we would have the worst epidemic of drink spiking in the history of Europe and I don’t believe that is the case.”
Field hospital needed to treat drunk teenagers at Cork disco
Three intoxicated children aged between 15 and 17 were taken unconscious by ambulance to CUH and up to a dozen were triaged in a field-hospital set up on the grounds of Bandon Rugby Club to ensure the hospital was not overwhelmed by scale of the incident.
Jason van der Velde, a pre-hospital emergency medicine and critical care retrieval physician based at CUH’s emergency department, said the response by the event organisers, and the decision to triage the teens at the scene, averted the possible overwhelming of an already at-capacity ambulance service, ED, and hospital.
He described the scene as he arrived at one of the club’s dressing rooms, where the teens were being cared for initially, as akin to “an ancient Roman vomitorium”.
Dr van der Velde said: “The team at the rugby club managed this incident exceptionally well. Their planning was right, they did as best as you could expect.”
Chief Supt Con Cadogan said gardaí are investigating alleged assaults at the event, and are concerned at a lack of parental responsibility.
“Parents need to be more vigilant. They have to watch out for their kids, talk to them, know what they’re doing, and who they’re with,” he said.
Chris Luke, a consultant in emergency medicine at CUH and the Mercy University Hospital, described the scale of the incident as “jaw-dropping”.
He told Cork’s 96FM: “The medical staff, the paramedics performed miracles. They delivered a wonderful service which eased the burden on CUH, which was already very, very busy.”
He said some parents who arrived to collect their children on the night verbally abused medical staff and insisted their children had had their drinks spiked.
“Having your drink spiked in Ireland is really very, very rare,” Dr Luke said.
“But when you find teens on buses with clinking rucksacks, you have to ask how was it planted on the back of that girl? How were they plied with their drink by some horrible stranger? It’s just not realistic to say that little Johnny or Mary had their drink spiked. Parents need to understand that the greatest determinant, the greatest driver of teen drinking, is the behaviour of the parent in the house, the culture within the house.
“I can’t tell you how upsetting it is for staff in hospitals to be working flat out, minding the young people of this country, only to be abused by parents who are alleging some mysterious third party has spiked their teenager’s drink. If it were the case, we would have the worst epidemic of drink spiking in the history of Europe and I don’t believe that is the case.”
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