Children’s Health Ireland Statement – Winter activity across CHI

October 2021

Early-onset of Winter activity across Children’s Health Ireland hospitals

Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) is seeing a significant increase in the number of young children and infants presenting to their Emergency Departments (ED’s) in Temple Street, Crumlin and Tallaght and Urgent Care Unit at Blanchardstown due to an early rise in seasonal respiratory illness and viruses. The children’s hospitals, including the Urgent Care Centre at Connolly Hospital, are extremely busy, with winter levels of activity since September. We are managing increased demand on services, within a COVID setting, with some very old and cramped infrastructure and with the added challenge of reduced staffing levels due to illness.

In particular, Consultant’s in Paediatric Emergency Medicine across CHI report seeing an increase in cases of children with fever presenting to ED’s/UCC, related to a rise in respiratory infections such as RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) and bronchiolitis, paraflu, and rhinovirus, all of which produce symptoms of coughs, runny nose and fever.  These infections, which are usually mild, are mostly seen in the winter months, but the easing of lockdown has meant that children are being exposed to them earlier as they come back into contact with other children.   

Dr Ciara Martin, Clinical Director, Children’s Health Ireland said “Many Emergency Departments are currently overwhelmed but there has been a steep rise in the number of children presenting to CHI at Temple Street, Crumlin, Connolly and Tallaght. The numbers of presentations to our ED’s are very high, the highest in four years and wait times can belong.

“The biggest increase we’re seeing is in children with mild fever. Fevers are very common in children and usually aren’t serious. Many parents haven’t seen fever in their child before as they’ve spent much of their short lives in lockdown, and parents are worried, particularly if they don’t have their usual sources of support to turn to. Most of these children are fine and have returned home once their parents were reassured, but this takes time and resources. With departments already under huge pressure, we need to make sure that our services are available for children who are seriously unwell.”

In order to safely manage all patients in the ED’s/UCC and to avoid overcrowding as much as possible, families of children with minor and less urgent complaints are advised to see their GP/out-of-hours service and local pharmacy first.

Our advice for any parent/guardian whose child or infant who gets flu-like symptoms is to stay at home, rest, drink plenty of fluids and use over-the-counter remedies like paracetamol to ease flu symptoms.  If parents are worried about their child’s breathing or fluid intake or if any young child or infant is in one of the high-risk groups and develops flu-like symptoms they should contact their GP in the first instance. 

To cope with a sharp increase in presentations to CHI’s ED’s and UCC, we are reducing some planned elective and routine inpatient admissions in the coming weeks and over the Winter period. We apologise to patients and their families whose children may have to have their procedures postponed at short notice. We are making every effort to improve the situation and will reschedule these admissions at the soonest possible opportunity. We are seeking investment through the Government’s Access to Care fund to increase our capacity or seek other means of providing elective services.  

CHI wishes to apologise to any families who may have an increased wait for their child to be seen or admitted in one of our hospitals. Children who require emergency or urgent care will be prioritised.