Child with ‘profound’ disability in hospital over 100 days more than medically necessary due to lack of services

Ombudsman highlights lack of State services to support children with disabilities to live at home with families

Hospital trolleys. Photograph: iStock

A child with a “profound” disability has lived in a hospital for over 100 days more than medically necessary due to services being unable to meet the child’s needs in the community, the office of the Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO) has said.

Over the past four years, the office has highlighted a number of cases in which children are being left in hospitals and other services due to a lack of adequate State services to support children with disabilities to grow up at home with their families.

Last November, the OCO wrote to both the Health Service Executive (HSE) and Tusla, the child and family agency, raising concerns about a number of children and families in these situations.

A spokeswoman for the OCO, said since then “we have been actively engaged with those cases with the relevant services with limited success”.


“Throughout 2024, we continue to receive complaints from or on behalf of such children and families. We are aware of one child, with a profound disability who has been in a hospital setting for over 100 days beyond medical need as services have not been able to progress matters in that child’s best interests,” the spokeswoman said.

The office called on the HSE to “immediately implement” the outstanding recommendations it made in its 2020 report on the issue.

“Not doing so is causing significant harm and distress to children and families. The State is failing to uphold these rights for these children,” the spokeswoman said.

In an internal note, obtained under Freedom of Information laws, the HSE said there is a requirement to “review the need for alternative care” in relation to the cohort of children with disabilities who remained in hospital beyond medical need.

The note said housing and staffing are “major challenges”, and as a result, the HSE and its service providers are “finding it difficult in the context of the overall housing needs of the State and the level of competition for the available housing, to find suitable housing to provide residential services”.

A spokeswoman for the HSE said the executive continues “to be concerned that any child might remain in hospital beyond what is necessary to meet their medical needs”.

“The CEO has instructed that where it is possible to commence a placement in line with a child’s needs that would allow them to be discharged from hospital, then the issue of resources is secondary to the needs of that child and that any issue in regards to who pays for the service can be determined after the placement has commenced,” the spokeswoman said.

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is Health Correspondent of The Irish Times