Children left on trolleys reveals health disaster
OUR health service has given us some grim tales in recent years, due to a combination of cutbacks, inefficiency and poor planning.
These include delayed cancer diagnoses, cancelled operations, growing treatment waiting lists, and hospital 'superbugs.
Now we have a new health nightmare -- overcrowding in children's A&Es leading to young patients languishing uncomfortably and unsafely on hospital trolleys for hours on end.
Emergency medicine consultants have revealed that the number of child patients awaiting admission but remaining on trolleys has increased by nearly 700pc in a little over three years.
They say levels of overcrowding in children's A&Es are at historically high and at dangerous levels.
In Crumlin Hospital, the number of children awaiting a bed, but having to endure the hell of remaining on a trolley, has increased by a massive 700pc in three years.
Often children are spending longer than 12 hours on a trolley and sometimes over 24 hours.
Temple Street and general hospitals treating child patients are under similar pressure.
So how did it come to this? What we don't like to think about is that some children's hospitals, like general hospitals, have had to close beds in recent years for budgetary reasons.
You can only imagine the distress this latest health crisis is causing the young patients and their parents and families, and indeed hard pressed hospital staff doing their best to look after these patients.
It's bad enough that your child has to endure a hospital stay, but to spend much of that stay putting up with the discomfort and distress of 'trolley treatment' goes beyond the limits of unacceptable healthcare.
Emergency consultants are surely not overstating it when they say that having child patients on trolleys is not ethically acceptable.
Nor indeed is having hundreds of adult patients on trolleys on any given day, but a health service that cannot properly cater for young and vulnerable patients surely has a lot to answer for.
To date, this had been a largely hidden health service crisis. We don't usually see headlines about child A&E trolley numbers as the focus has traditionally been on pressure in adult A&Es.
This might have given us the impression, until now, that trolley crises didn't happen in children's hospitals.
How wrong we were. And with further cuts inevitable, it could get worse.
Recently we have seen a reduction in the number of adult patients on trolleys in emergency departments, although the adult figures are still pretty high in some big hospitals.
This cut in adult trolley numbers has come about through freeing up beds and other resources and through greater efficiencies.
Emergency consultants point out that the overcrowding in Tallaght Hospital's child A&E is not as bad as elsewhere, as beds earmarked for closure were kept open.
Other hospitals must now be allowed to reopen closed beds and be provided with all the necessary resources, to cope with this current pressure.
Yes, the health service is going through unprecedented financial difficulties.
There are solutions out there. Minister Reilly and the HSE need to sort out this crisis urgently.
Niall Hunter is Editor of irishhealth.com