By Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA
All routine procedures at Belfast’s paediatric hospital have been postponed, after an increase in children presenting with symptoms of bacterial and viral infections.
The action was being taken to prioritise the most critically ill children, the Belfast Trust said.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Trust said that the hospital is experiencing “very significant pressures” in its emergency department, with 227 children attending on Tuesday.
The number of children presenting with symptoms of bacterial and viral infections has increased, it added.
“Unfortunately, we have taken the very difficult decision to postpone all routine procedures at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children to allow our staff to care for those children with serious or time-critical illness at this time.
The Children’s Hospital is currently under significant pressure. There will be a long wait for anyone not in urgent need. Please consider using alternative services or attending your local hospital. pic.twitter.com/VHVFQu4NcP
— Belfast Trust (@BelfastTrust) December 6, 2022
“We appreciate how difficult this will be for families and children and we apologise for the distress this may cause.”
It comes after tributes were paid to a young Belfast girl who died as a case of Strep A was reported at the primary school she attended.
Five-year-old Stella-Lilly McCorkindale has been remembered as “a very bright and talented little girl” by her school.
There has been an increase in the number of Strep A cases at schools and nurseries across Northern Ireland, which can be treated with antibiotics but can also develop into a more serious but rare invasive Group A Strep infection.
Not sure where to find good advise on how to treat your child when they are sick.
Check out the Children's Symptom Checkerhttps://t.co/bCxW1scEmK
for reliable advise on treating both minor illnesses and those with more serious symptoms.#childrenssymptomchecker pic.twitter.com/StDLOGovyN
— Health and Social Care Northern Ireland (@HSC_NI) December 7, 2022
It follows two years of the coronavirus pandemic, when reported cases were lower than usual.
Eight children in Great Britain have died with a form of Strep A, while the death of a four-year-old child in Ireland is being investigated to see if Strep A was a contributory factor.
The Belfast Trust said: “We understand that parents may be very concerned if their child is experiencing symptoms of infection.
“We would encourage all parents to check the Belfast Trust online symptom checker where you can find quick, informative and trustworthy information about how to care for your child at home, support available from local pharmacies and GPs, and when to bring your child to hospital.”
The Public Health Agency website also has information on managing Strep A infections, it said.