Adults raped or sexually attacked can access specialist treatment centres within a matter of hours.
But young victims of sexual abuse are being further traumatised as there are few services available to properly examine them.
A paediatrician/ forensic examiner who specialises in child protection has warned there are no out-of-hours service for emergencies.
Despite promises being made in relation to child protection after reports promising change, children under 14 do not have proper access to forensic medical examinations.
Consultant paediatrician Dr Joanne Nelson said it was astounding that if a 23-year-old was raped on a Friday night, they could be admitted within two hours to a sexual assault treatment unit (SATU). However, she said if a three-year-old was raped at a weekend there was no multi-disciplinary service and no medical professional on call or to respond until Monday — if even then.
“I think people don’t realise these services are not in place for children,” she said.
“We are doing a great disservice to the most vulnerable children. In light of what happened in Roscommon and the Ryan Report, this is obscene.”
According to Dr Nelson, a child may arrive at a Garda station after being assaulted only to spend hours there waiting to access a proper medical examination.
They could then be referred to a Emergency Department to wait for medical expertise which may not be accessed for days.
The child will then have a Garda interview at a different venue, days or weeks later, and another social services one again at a different venue.
Dr Nelson said she wrote and submitted a proposal to the HSE for the establishment of a dedicated unit for the western region.
While waiting for a response, she and a colleague, forensic examiner Dr Roger Derham set up an out-of-hours service, run from a private hospital and paid for by the HSE on a case by case basis.
Both doctors, however, have decided to withdraw their services from December 20 as the HSE informed them that while it will allow the service to be run from its adult SATU in the future, it will continue to be a five day a week service with no out-of-hours funding.
Dr Derham said the HSE’s offer was a “desultory and offensive proposal”.
Dr Derham said he was withdrawing his services which he was no longer prepared to offer in support of such a “deficient proposal”.