CRAIGAVON Area Hospital has been urged to clarify its policies for children waiting for treatment in its Emergency Department.
Deputy Mayor Arnold Hatch has tabled a question through the Southern Local Commissioning Group which advises the health and social care trust on various aspects of delivering services.
Mr Hatch outlined his concern over a trend that sees children often having to wait in the general emergency area of the hospital - rather than the children’s section - following a complaint made by a member of the public.
Mr Hatch said, “She said she had to take her child - who had taken unwell - to the unit, and they had to wait along with adults, for two to three hours before the child was treated.
“Apparently, it was a Sunday night and the child was eventually seen by an appropriate doctor and the treatment was of the usual high standard one expects in Craigavon. But what concerns me is that children have to wait with adults at times, which, frankly, is an inappropriate place for children at that time of night. There is the well-documented problem of obstreperous patients kicking up a fuss, or even becoming violent.
“It was, apparently, a Sunday night and everyone seemed to be patient and long-suffering, but there should be a designated waiting area for children, with their parents, at all times. It seems that children were distressed - or fast asleep - during the waiting time.”
A detailed reply from the hospital stated that the hospital has a children’s accident and emergency for under-14s and it is open from 12 noon until 10pm every weekday and 10am-10pm at weekends. “Dedicated staffing for the treatment of children is available at these times,” it added. “Outside these times, any children visiting the emergency department will be assessed and treated within the main department.”
However, the statement went on to say it is not always possible to open the children’s area - “for example, when many seriously ill patients come to the emergency department requiring urgent treatment, medical staff are needed to treat these urgent patients first. During these times, children have to be treated within the department, but we give children and their parents some privacy and trained nurses are always available.
“While this is not ideal, we are doing our best. Children may have to share a waiting room with adults, but we take every possible precaution to ensure the security of everyone.”
Mr Hatch said he accepted the difficulties within the department, but felt that the reply was “ambivalent and has too many unanswered questions”. He added, “I feel that children should, at no time, have to wait in the adult area. We hear so many reports of inebriated patients turning up at A&E around ‘closing time’ and turning violent. There should be no question of children having to stay within the general waiting area.
“I have formulated a question to the commissioning group, and I will await their reply before I comment any further.”