100,000 children are on hospital waiting lists in Ireland right now 6 months ago

100,000 children are on hospital waiting lists in Ireland right now

These are shocking figures.

According to new figures from the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) almost 100,000 children in Ireland are on a hospital waiting list right now.

That, shockingly enough, means that as many as one in 12 children in this country are awaiting treatment or consultations relating to their health and wellbeing right now.

Speaking on Newstalk's Breakfast Briefing yesterday, Temple Street Hospital Paediatrics Consultant Dr Ike Okafor explained that the waiting lists risk can cause long-lasting damage to children’s physical and mental health.

“A 40-year-old waiting a year is not the same thing as a three-year-old child waiting a year,” he said.

“Also, you have to understand that, when children are waiting there is likely to be a worsening of their condition which makes it much more important that children are not waiting long to get the care they need.”

According to IHCA, some 37,700 children in this country have been waiting longer than one year for care, while 27,700 have been waiting longer than 18 months.

As well as these stark figures, almost 3,000 children were shown to be waiting to access mental health services in September – the highest figures since 2015.

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Dr Okafor said the long waiting lists are forcing families to bring their children to Emergency Departments for urgent care.

“No child should have to wait more than six weeks to get any kind of healthcare intervention,” he said.

“The longer they wait, the more protracted their condition actually becomes. Long waiting times are not just an issue for children’s physical or mental health, it’s about their social health as well - often they are not able to play with their peers, they’re not spending time in school and these are really fundamental parts of their lives.”

Dr Okafor explained that the mental health waiting lists are particularly concerning.

At the start of the pandemic, when presentations at Dublin’s three paediatric hospital emergency departments fell by 34%, mental health presentations increased by 9%.

Meanwhile, Temple Street has seen an eight-fold increase in mental health presentations since 2006.

“The pandemic has led to a massive increase in children presenting with acute mental health problems, especially eating disorders and self-harm,” Okafor. explained.

“A system that was already under pressure, not just in hospitals, but in the community has suddenly gone into crisis mode. Children are waiting longer and longer to see psychologists and psychiatrists and that’s a problem.”