Emergency departments in crisis with 35% increase in sick children

Emergency departments in crisis with 35% increase in sick children

Amanda Coughlan-Santry with her son TJ, who waited five and a half hours in the ED at Crumlin Children's Hospital 

A woman who waited for five and half hours in the Emergency Department at Crumlin Children's Hospital with her seriously ill disabled son has described the situation as “a nightmare.” 

Head of the emergency department at the hospital said patient numbers are up 35% on 2019 leading to delays. 

This comes as other under-fire hospitals including Cork University Hospital plead with the public to consider other options.

Amanda Coughlan-Santry’s son TJ, 16, was undergoing rehabilitation at another hospital when doctors spotted a potential infection and referred him to Crumlin on Thursday.

TJ, who uses a wheelchair, has spina bifida, hydrocephalus and an acquired brain injury.

Ms Coughlan-Santry handed in her son’s samples on arrival, but said once he was triaged, staff were too busy to return.

“We went to Crumlin at five, and we sat in the waiting room until ten at night,” she said. 

We weren’t the only family in the same situation, there were families there seven or eight hours.” 

After 10pm, she asked when he would be seen. “They said it would probably be three or four before we get to your son,” she said.

She ultimately took TJ home to Tullamore that night, as she had emergency antibiotics there. It was Friday morning, she said, before Crumlin confirmed the suspected infection.

“The nurses were extremely over-worked, there were very few doctors on. They were literally firefighting. I felt so sorry for the staff,” she said.

Paediatric consultant and head of the Crumlin emergency department Dr Carol Blackburn said the hospital is busier than ever before. 

“Our attendances this year are up 35% on our attendances in the early winter of 2019,” she said. 

“We are averaging over 150 children a day through our emergency department.” 

Dr Blackburn said Covid infections are not common; they are treating seasonal illnesses and children with complex conditions who cannot go elsewhere.

A higher than usual number of toddlers are suffering repeat bouts of viruses like RSV following the lockdowns, she said.

Paediatric consultant and head of the Crumlin emergency department Dr Carol Blackburn said Covid infections are not common; they are treating seasonal illnesses and children with complex conditions who cannot go elsewhere 
Paediatric consultant and head of the Crumlin emergency department Dr Carol Blackburn said Covid infections are not common; they are treating seasonal illnesses and children with complex conditions who cannot go elsewhere 

“We have a big population of 0-year-olds, one-year-olds or two-year-olds who have never come across these viruses before,” she said. 

“So they are getting them back to back, one after another.” 

She acknowledged GPs are also extremely busy, but called on parents to try other options unless their child is an emergency case.

Similarly, Cork University Hospital ED is also seeing a high number of patients. A spokeswoman said today: “Hospital management have requested that, where appropriate, the public contact their GP/South Doc in the first instance and explore all other options available to them prior to attending the Emergency Department if their needs are not urgent.” 

CUH was among the five most overcrowded hospitals last week with 165 patients on trolleys; ranked by the Irish Patients Association (IPA), building on daily data from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation. 

University Hospital Limerick was the busiest with 290, followed by Letterkenny University Hospital with 245. Only two hospitals had no patients on trolleys. 

The IPA highlighted safety concerns raised by Dr Tom McCormack at University Hospital Kerry last week. 

These included the cancellation of elective surgeries since mid-September.

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