Child patients ‘treated with drunk adults’

Seriously ill children sent to emergency departments are not being treated away from adult patients, including many who are violent and drunk, a HSE report claims.

The report issued a dire warning to all major hospitals outside the capital — including Cork University Hospital, Kerry General, and the Mid-Western Regional in Limerick — insisting “no one can stand over this”.

Under a recently drawn up HSE hospital care charter, which is open for public discussion, facilities have been told to ensure children are treated away from adult patients due to their different emotional needs.

However, a review has found that just six of the 17 hospitals outside Dublin are adhering to this policy — with doctors warning that chronic overcrowding, under-funding, and a lack of staff among the reasons why.

According to the HSE report, just six of the 17 facilities examined have separate emergency department waiting zones for children.

In addition, 11 out of 17 have separate child and adult assessment rooms where patients receive their initial emergency checks.

Galway University Hospital came in for particular criticism in the document, with its authors noting that due to space restrictions at the facility more than 12,000 children a year are seen in just two cubicles.

This is the equivalent of 33 children every day.

The Mid-Western Regional Hospital in Limerick was also criticised, with the document describing the situation as “untenable” and noting: “With such a busy throughput, many children are exposed visually to very ill or even drunk adults. No one can stand over this.”

Sligo General was highlighted as a major area of concern due to its joint child and adult waiting zone. However, CUH, Waterford Regional, Cavan General, Galway University Hospital, Wexford General, the Midlands Regional Hospital in Mullingar, Mayo General, Letterkenny General, and St Luke’s in Co Kilkenny were also criticised.

Of the hospitals audited, the Mercy University Hospital, Kerry General, Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, Portiuncula Hospital in Galway, South Tipperary General in Clonmel, and the Midlands Regional Hospital in Portlaoise met existing standards.

The report was conducted by the HSE’s clinical programmes for paediatrics and neonatology.

It is being used as a basis for the new HSE charter on how children are cared for in hospital, which is open to submissions and views from the public until Jan 31.

Those interested are asked to send their views via the email addressyoursay@hse.ie.

The charter states that child and adult patients should be treated in separate areas, and that the right of children to speak privately with medics must be enforced.

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