Homeless children in A&E soars 29pc with one in four suffering injuries and burns

The number of homeless children being discharged from hospital A&E services in Temple Street into emergency accommodation rose last year.

Doctors said 842 – many of them babies – were treated in Temple Street Hospital’s A&E department in 2018, a rise of 29pc compared to the previous year.

Sick young patients had to return to homeless families in cramped and temporary accommodation, in hotel rooms and hostels.

A&E consultant Dr I K Okafor said: “We had a case in 2018 where a child who required surgery attended the Temple Street with their siblings, parents and extended family.

“This family had nowhere else to go until accommodation was found at 11pm.”

The majority of these children were suffering with medical complaints including abdominal pain, high temperatures, chest infections, asthma, seizures and vomiting.

Nearly one in four had suffered hand and arm injuries, head lacerations, burns and self-harm.

More than a quarter were less than a year old.

“I have looked after children with cystic fibrosis, neurological disorders, severe autism and children with significant developmental delays,” said Dr Okafor.

“We have also looked after a young person who was assaulted on his way to emergency homeless accommodation.

“In addition some of our homeless families who are given accommodation outside of Dublin are finding it difficult to afford to attend their children’s outpatient appointments.”

Anne Marie Jones, head medical social worker at Temple Street, described the figure of 2,816 homeless children living in the Dublin region as “shameful”.

She said: “When these children leave our emergency department they stay in temporary accommodation with cramped conditions and no appropriate cooking, washing or play facilities.

“This results in accidents or traumas that wouldn’t normally happen if these families were housed in a family home.”

Temple Street has joined a national campaign, along with other charities and support agencies which advocate for families who are homeless, to call for an end to the crisis.

It said there can be a clear risk to children in this predicament that it affected all facets of their life from “conception to young adulthood”.

Homelessness has a negative affect on the physical, emotional, cognitive, social, and behavioural development of children.

Among the knock-on effects is poor nutrition, which can contribute to homeless children’s poor health.

Homeless women come up against many obstacles to healthy pregnancies, such as substance abuse, chronic and acute health problems, and lack of prenatal care.

Children born into homelessness are more likely to have low birth weights and be exposed to environmental factors that can endanger their health.

They are at higher risk of developmental delays after 18 months of age which can lead to later behavioural and emotional problems .

Pre-school age children risk developmental delays.

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