Children on hospital trolleys now ‘constant’ fixture, say INMO

Union launches paediatric trolley watch

Speaking at the launch of paediatric trolley watch, INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said historic issues of recruitment and retention of nursing staff continue. File photograph: Cyril Byrne

Speaking at the launch of paediatric trolley watch, INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said historic issues of recruitment and retention of nursing staff continue. File photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

The incidence of children stranded on trolleys in Irish emergency departments has changed from a “very odd occasion” to a “constant” fixture of the health service, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has said.

Concerns among staff reached a new height in the middle of 2017 prompting the organisation to begin a formal monitoring process, mirroring standard ED and ward counts.

Launching its “paediatric trolley watch” on Monday, the INMO said the issue has become another symptom of insufficient hospital capacity, aggravated by a changing population structure which has seen a substantial increase in those under the age of 18.

“It is a very traumatic event for any parent and child to have to present at an emergency department in the first place,” said Catherine Sheridan of the INMO’s National Children’s Nurses Section.

“It is not appropriate for children. They should not have to endure the emergency department for prolonged periods which we are finding now. It adds to the trauma.”

Ms Sheridan conjured an image of busy, noisy emergency departments constantly under bright lights.

“Anybody who has looked after a sick child will know that that is not a good environment.”

Statistics have been compiled since November, adding to other “trolley watch” reports compiled in hospitals which keep the focus on overcrowded EDs and lack of ward capacity, and which sustain pressure on the Government to address shortfalls.

Record level

When overall trolley figures reached a record level of 677 on one day earlier this month, there were 12 children left waiting for a bed. On January 12th, according to the INMO count, both Temple Street and Crumlin hospitals had seven children on trolleys.

Deputy general secretary Dave Hughes said such scenarios were “pretty much unheard of until the last couple of years”.

“It’s something that we hoped we’d never have to count, we are unfortunately now counting it,” he said.

Phil Ní Sheaghdha, general secretary, added: “From time to time prior to [when they began counting] you would have had a child maybe [ON THE]very, very odd occasion, but now it’s constant.”

Ms Ní Sheaghdha said historic issues of recruitment and retention of nursing staff continue. In paediatric nursing, she said, the UK, and particularly Great Ormond Street Hospital, was “aggressively” pursuing Irish staff with the advantage of offering “far more attractive” conditions.

Last year, the organisation said, 107 paediatric nurses were recruited to Irish hospitals while 106 finished working, an exchange illustrative of the failure to keep pace with demographic shifts.

The new children’s hospital is estimated to need in the order of 300 paediatric nurses, according to official forecasts, but the INMO insist at least twice that number will be required.

INMO president Martina Harkin-Kelly pointed to the underlying issue of population growth. Today, she explained, Ireland has 1.2 million children, representing 26.1 per cent of the overall population, a proportion far in advance of other EU countries.