Children’s charity Cari said it was “unacceptable” that there was only one such facility in the entire country, located in Galway, forcing the bulk of families to struggle in the dark for help.
Cari chief executive Mary Flaherty said the needs were “enormous” and said there should be at least the same level of service as adults have, for whom there are six Sexual Assault Treatment Units (SATU) nationwide.
Dr Maeve Eogan of the Dublin SATU in the Rotunda Hospital said a parent of a child, or in many cases a garda acting on their behalf, would have to make “up to nine phone calls” to track down a medical professional who might fit the child into the end of their clinic.
The country’s six SATUs are only allowed to treat children over 14, while the Child and Adolescent Sexual Assault Treatment Services (CASATS) in Galway can treat any child under 16.
The service treated 73 children in 2015, compared to 64 in 2014. Three of the children were aged one, six were aged two, seven were aged three and 11 were aged four (the highest number for any age). In all, almost 40% were aged four or under.
A Children’s Hospital Group statement confirmed the facility would open with the hospital in 2021. It said an advanced nurse practitioner had been appointed and will work with the HSE to develop the service.