Thursday, 22 September 2022
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
Mary Seery Kearney (Fine Gael)
I ask the Leader to arrange a special debate on the experience of children and their families when they are in hospital. This morning on “Morning Ireland” we heard the experience of a woman whose child was in hospital with a long-term illness. She spoke of the cost of car parking and the costs when the child was being treated, for cancer in this instance. If the child felt sick when the food came around then food had to be purchased later or some special treat obtained to induce a child to eat at a time when the child is very ill. All of those costs mount up for families.
I appreciate that we have removed the inpatient fees for children in hospital which is a great step forward in itself. However, there are other considerations at a time when we are in a challenging cost-of-living crisis.
A survey was done a couple of years ago on promoting children's rights and welfare in healthcare across all European Union countries. There is additional financial strain on a family.They can have additional accommodation, food and car parking costs. Car parking charges in our children's hospitals are appallingly high, with some charging up to €35 a day. I do not see why a bespoke arrangement cannot be put in place to support these families. They are a discrete group that could be red-circled and vouchers or passes given to them. It is possible to do that and there is no reason it cannot be done. There are other issues as well. The woman who spoke this morning talked about the possibility of vouchers for hospital cafeterias for families. Such simple things would make a huge difference at a time of crisis. I acknowledge the role of the Ronald McDonald House which is adjacent to Crumlin children's hospital in my own constituency of Dublin South-Central and which I have visited on a number of occasions. It provides accommodation to families from around the country and does extraordinary work. It is not financed by McDonald's itself but it gathers the charitable donations. It provides home-from-home food, sibling accommodation and so on. We need to deal properly with children in hospital and their families and I call for a debate on the issue.