Sick five-year-old tended to in hospital room used to store medical equipment

Mother describes as ‘disgraceful’ conditions in the National Children’s Hospital at Tallaght

The five-year-old  boy  in   the room being used to store medical equipment at Tallaght children’s hospital on Friday.   Photograph taken by his family

The five-year-old boy in the room being used to store medical equipment at Tallaght children’s hospital on Friday. Photograph taken by his family

 

A mother of four has described as “disgraceful” conditions in the National Children’s Hospital at Tallaght after her sick five-year-old son was tended to in a room being used to store medical equipment.

The woman, from Bray, Co Wicklow, and who does not wish to be identified, urged Minister for Health Simon Harris to “just fix the hospitals” rather than apologising for the state of the health service.

She took her increasingly lethargic and feverish eldest son to their GP on Friday, five days after he began showing symptoms of a viral infection, and was referred to Tallaght after the family doctor became concerned at how much he was sleeping.

After waiting more than three hours to be seen, she said she was shown into an unlit room full of boxes, zimmer frames, crutches and other medical equipment which “looked like they were just thrown in there”.

She lifted her son onto her lap in a bed pressed into the corner of what looked like a “consultation room being used as a storage room”.

“When the doctor switched on the light and I saw the room, I just thought, oh my God,” the mother, who also has three-year-old twins and a six-month-old baby, told The Irish Times.

“But I was just concerned for my son, and, unfortunately I’m resigned to the fact that this is now the status quo – this is Irish hospitals.”

The woman said she “couldn’t see the floor for the boxes”.

“There was barely room for me to have my son on my lap. I was banging into boxes and bumping into the doctor when she was trying to check him.”

Apologetic

It was “awkward” for the doctor – “who couldn’t have been nicer, she was so apologetic about it” – to assess her son properly.

“I know it is not the doctor’s fault. I’ve just resigned myself that this is the state of hospitals in Ireland. That’s just the way it is.”

The woman said the hospital was also generally unclean in the waiting room and shared areas, as well as some bathrooms.

After being told he had a viral infection and was advised to go home with her son, she showed a picture she had taken of the room to the boy’s grandmother, who became very upset and started crying when she saw “my baby lying there like that among the boxes”.

The grandmother contacted Mr Harris’s office, where someone “agreed it was disgraceful” and said they would bring it to his attention.

However, the mother said she was not particularly interested in any response.

“He can respond if he wants, but what is he going to do? Give us an apology? What good is that? Just fix the hospitals.

“It is infuriating given the money we have in this country. We can spend €1.8 million on the Dáil printer blunder, and this is the state of the hospitals – poor people on trolleys every day of the week. You see nurses and doctors stressed, under so much pressure. They are running around like headless chickens. It is not fair on them either.”

The mother said there were much sicker children than her son in the Tallaght emergency department on Friday, and “it didn’t strike me that he was the only child to be examined in that room today”.

The woman said she would not go back to the Tallaght hospital, and would drive past it in future to Crumlin children’s hospital.

Earlier this week Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell described conditions at the emergency department of Crumlin children’s hospital as “shocking” after attending with her child in recent days.

After waiting several hours to have her child seen, she said she left as she was afraid she would be recognised and “lynched” by other parents there with children.

Support rooms

Children’s Health Ireland, which runs the children’s hospitals, said it “sincerely regrets the experience this family had” when attending Tallaght on Friday.

A spokeswoman admitted it was “not acceptable to use support rooms” in emergency departments, and blamed increased attendances for “putting a strain on the areas in which we see children and infants”.

She added that Children’s Health Ireland “will follow up with this family directly about this experience, and we apologise for this happening.”

Separately, parents are being warned of long waiting times at children’s emergency departments at Tallaght, Crumlin and Temple Street because of “extreme pressures” with increased attendances.

In a statement the hospitals said they had deferred all elective admissions on Friday, when there were 24 children waiting for a bed in emergency departments, up from 14 on Thursday.