Health crisis hitting sick kids: Children’s hospitals postpone surgeries as numbers at A&Es surge

The country’s three main children’s hospitals have begun postponing elective procedures due to mounting pressure on the system ahead of the peak winter months.

Health crisis hitting sick kids: Children’s hospitals postpone surgeries as numbers at A&Es surge

By Conall Ó Fátharta, David Raleigh, and Catherine Shanahan

The country’s three main children’s hospitals have begun postponing elective procedures due to mounting pressure on the system ahead of the peak winter months.

Children’s Health Ireland (CHI), which oversees services at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin, Temple Street Hospital, and the National Children’s Hospital at Tallaght, has said “all elective and routine inpatient procedures” are to be restricted at the hospitals in the coming weeks due to the number of children and infants presenting for admission.

CHI said it was not in a position to confirm the number of procedures that have had to be postponed yet but said that Crumlin and Temple Street are likely to see the greatest impact.

The decision comes as patients families hit out at “cattle mart” conditions, as the highest-ever levels of patent overcrowding, were recorded at University Hospital Limerick yesterday.

CHI said last weekend saw an increase in the number of young children and infants presenting to its emergency departments (EDs).

Yesterday morning, there were 22 patients waiting for admission to an inpatient bed in the three children’s EDs, compared to 11 for the same period last week.

The group said the long waiting times currently being experienced are “regrettable” and were the result of higher rates of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), flu and the winter vomiting bug.

As a result, a number of electives were postponed yesterday with further restrictions in the coming weeks

“To cope with this increase in our EDs, CHI is restricting all elective and routine inpatient procedures in the coming weeks. We apologise to families whose children may have to have their procedures postponed at short notice. We are making every effort to improve the situation and will reschedule these at the soonest possible opportunity,” said a statement.

CHI advised all people to get the flu vaccine and urged families of children with minor and less urgent complaints to see their GP/out of hours GP service and local pharmacy first or to come to its new urgent care centre at CHI at Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown.

University Hospital Limerick
University Hospital Limerick

Meanwhile, UHL was the most overcrowded hospital in the country yesterday with 85 patients waiting on trolleys between its ED and general wards — the highest number ever in a single hospital.

A hospital spokesman apologised to patients “experiencing lengthy waits for beds” and said the hospital was “working to alleviate the situation”.

INMO assistant director of industrial relations for the region Mary Fogarty said despite the best efforts of staff at the hospital, it was “breaking records in the worst possible way”.

“Promises of future improvement will not suffice. Real action is needed today. We simply do not have sufficient capacity. Without an increase in beds and the professionals to staff them, this problem will continue to escalate. Our members are on the frontline providing the best care they can — but the situation is intolerable for them and unsafe for patients,” she said.

The hospital also scored below the national average for every stage of care in the National Inpatient Experience Survey published by health watchdog Hiqa yesterday.

The study found that a small percentage of patients who present at EDs are waiting at least two days to be admitted to hospital, while seven in 10 are not admitted within the HSE’s target time of six hours.

It warns that waits in excess of six hours “have been linked with negative health outcomes and therefore pose a risk to patient safety”.

The survey does, however, show that nationally, patients are generally satisfied with their inpatient experience, with 84% nationally rating it as ‘good’ or ‘very good’

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