A Cork GP has called for hospitals in the region to increase their paediatric cut-off age after a teenager was sexually assaulted by an adult in a shared ward at Cork University Hospital (CUH).
CUH was criticised in the wake of the incident by Judge Seán Ó’Donnabháin who called for management to “buck up”.
The accused man, Andrew O’Donovan of Butlersgift, Drimoleague, County Cork, was given an 18-month suspended jail term yesterday for sexual assault – his first criminal conviction of any kind.
O'Donovan pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting the teenager who was 17.
The girl was in hospital for serious injuries and was put into a ward with the man, who has a long psychiatric history.
In the early hours of the morning in question, he sexually assaulted her.
Because of her physical injuries at the time, she could not reach the panic button over her head.
In the wake of the case, CUH announced that they reviewed their admission protocols.
"Factors such as accommodation, staffing and patient safety were examined as part of this review process,” the hospital said.
However, the hospital revealed no plans to increase its age limit for paediatric-only wards from 16 years of age.
The survivor, who wished to remain anonymous, spoke in court of her desire for paediatric wards to be for those under 18 rather than 16.
In a statement to The Echo, a spokesperson for the South/South West Hospital Group said:
"The sharing of wards between male and female patients is not common practice.
“However, this can arise in terms of Intensive Care Units and Observation Units for clinical reasons.
“Patients under the age of 16 years are always accommodated in paediatric wards."
A Cork GP has called for this age limit to be increased to prevent such incidents from happening in the future.
Dr Nick Flynn, of MyCorkGP.ie, said patients up to the age of 17 should be treated in paediatric wards.
“Having a vulnerable 16 and a half year old on a ward with adults is not ideal,” he explained.
Speaking during the trial, Judge Ó’Donnabháin said:
"Management of these hospitals would want to be bucked up a small bit.
"You have to question about the management of the ward system.”