Families supporting sick children

 

Sir, – The past two months have been extremely difficult for children, as indeed your newspaper has noted in “How will the Covid-19 era affect our youngest citizens? Let us count the ways” (Sheila Wayman, Health + Family, May 26th).

We in Children in Hospital Ireland know that the entire country is facing unprecedented situations and difficulties and we recognise the positive measures that have been put in place to ease the situation for many. However, we wish to add our voice to that of those quoted in your article and to call for increased support and clear communication with those families supporting sick children.

Surgery, outpatient appointments and essential therapies for children and young people have been cancelled. There have been severe restrictions on visiting for parents of children in hospital and in particular of babies in neonatal intensive-care units. There have been concerns over potential reduction in cancer and other major illness referrals for children.

There has been stress on parents caring for children with a long-term illness at home due to lack of home support, lack of respite, siblings being home-schooled and the very real fear of what happens if one of the carers falls ill.

While families can normally cope with these often stressful times, their usual fears and stresses are being exacerbated at the moment. There is a real sense of isolation for a parent with a child in hospital, and this causes heightened anxiety for the parent in hospital and for the family who are coping at home.

An additional fear for parents is the impact the “necessary pausing” of routine and scheduled procedures will have on the future healthcare of their child. Childhood illness presents unique and particularly difficult challenges and anxieties for families at the best of times but we have real concerns about the long-term impact on families of the current pandemic.

We urge the HSE and individual hospitals to communicate with families to help reduce the fear and anxiety which parents may feel and to ensure that parents and children are confident about when and how they will return for treatment or consultations.

The toll of the current pandemic on the day-to-day life of all our citizens has been enormous, and we hope that those families who are on the frontline as carers for sick children at the moment will be kept in mind and supported to access the care they need when they need it. – Yours, etc,

ANNA GUNNING,

Chief Executive,

Children in Hospital,

Sandyford, Dublin 18.