Minister commits to protocol for timely ‘tracheostomy' discharges

Advocacy group meets Dr James Reilly over crisis

 Dr James Reilly: gave a “personal commitment” to the Tracheostomy Advocacy Group. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Dr James Reilly: gave a “personal commitment” to the Tracheostomy Advocacy Group. Photograph: Cyril Byrne


Minister for Health James Reilly has given a “personal commitment” to put in place a national protocol for the discharge of “tracheostomy babies” from hospital as soon as they are well, an advocacy group has said.

The Tracheostomy Advocacy Group met Dr Reilly in Dublin yesterday, with senior HSE staff in attendance. The group had been seeking an urgent meeting with the Minister to call on him to implement a 2008 HSE protocol for these infants’ “safe and timely discharge” from hospital.

The issue of babies who have had tracheostomies inserted not being able to go home from hospital once they are well reached crisis levels in recent weeks.

It emerged there were seven babies in Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin who, having had tracheostomies inserted months and even years ago, who could not go home as the HSE was refusing to sanction safe homecare packages, due to issues with funding.

Babies who have had tracheotomies, whereby a tube is inserted into a hole cut into their windpipe to help them breathe, require 24-hour care, including having their tubes cleaned, changed and suctioned. Though parents are trained before their children go home, they also need homecare packages to allow them to sleep and take care of other responsibilities.

A spokesman for the Minister confirmed Dr Reilly was “committed to a protocol being put in place”.

Colm Young, founder of the Tracheostomy Advocacy Group, said he was “hopeful” after the meeting that the 2008 protocol would be adopted, though he was given no time frame. “The Minister said he was personally committed to putting in place a structure for the discharge of children from hospital, as soon as possible.

“I do think we’re getting there. I am more hopeful . . . I asked for the minutes . . . to be sent on to me, because I want it in writing that the Minister has given that personal commitment.

“We agreed on this protocol, with some amendments to include ventilated children [rather than just those able to breathe unaided]. We all agreed the best place for these children is the home setting,” Mr Young said.