Children’s hospital procedures postponed amid sharp rise in admissions

Highest ever number of patients waiting on trolleys recorded at Limerick hospital

Some elective and routine inpatient procedures have been postponed at Crumlin, Temple Street and Tallaght Hospitals to deal with an increase in the number of young children and infants presenting to emergency departments.

Children's Health Ireland, which governs and delivers acute paediatric services at the hospitals, said it was not in a position to provide the number of procedures that have had to be postponed at this time.

There were 22 children waiting for admission to an inpatient bed on Monday morning, compared to 11 for the same period last year.

Children’s Health Ireland said the rise in those attending emergency departments is in part a result of higher rates of the respiratory syncytial virus, which causes infections of the lungs and respiratory tract, flu and norovirus.


“To cope with this increase in our emergency departments CHI is restricting all elective and routine inpatient procedures in the coming weeks,” it said in a statement on Monday.

“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.”

It said emergency departments at children’s hospitals are open, however “patients attending will experience delays at this time”.

“Our advice for any parent/guardian whose child or infant who gets flu like symptoms is they should stay at home, rest, drink plenty of fluids and use over-the-counter remedies like paracetamol to ease flu symptoms,” it said.

“If parents are worried about their child’s breathing or fluid intake or if any young child or infant is in a high-risk groups and develops flu like symptoms they should contact their GP. “


Meanwhile there were 85 patients waiting on trolleys in University Hospital Limerick on Monday morning, the highest figure ever recorded in an Irish hospital in a single day, according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO).

The INMO said 55 people were waiting on trolleys in the emergency department, while 30 were in wards elsewhere in the hospital.

The previous record for the highest number of people waiting on trolleys in a single day was 82, also recorded in Limerick last month.

In total, 631 people were waiting on trolleys in hospital emergency departments or on wards across the country this morning, including 22 children.

Cork University Hospital had 52 patients waiting on trolleys, followed by Letterkenny University Hospital (47), Tallaght University Hospital (36) and University Hospital Galway (33).

In a statement on Monday, UL Hospitals Group (ULHG) urged the public to “consider all care options” before attending the emergency department at University Hospital Limerick.

It said the hospital is managing high volumes of patients that have arisen due to a “busy 48-72 hours” in the emergency department.

“We have reduced our elective surgical activity as we prioritise emergency admissions at this time. We are appropriately transferring patients to other hospitals in our group and are working with HSE MidWest Community Healthcare to access appropriate beds within the community,” it said.

“All patients are receiving expert medical care and every effort is being made to make their stay as comfortable as possible.

“Meanwhile, we urge people to consider all available care options and not attend the emergency department at UHL unless absolutely necessary. It is crucial that the emergency department be kept for emergencies only.”

Mary Fogarty, INMO assistant director of industrial relations for the region, said despite the "best efforts" of local staff, the situation in Limerick "continues to escalate".

“The hospital is breaking records in the worst possible way. Promises of future improvement will not suffice. Real action is needed today,” she said.

“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.”

The INMO has called for a “direct, immediate intervention” from senior management at University Hospital Limerick including the cancellation of non-essential elective work, more home care packages and emergency funding for extra agency staff.

The organisation has also called for an immediate end to the recruitment ban for nurses and midwives and extra support for GPs and public health nurses.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times