OVERNIGHT emergency child care at South Tyneside District Hospital is being suspended for two weeks after sickness sparked a staff shortage.
Hospital bosses say they are experiencing “an unexpected increase in sickness absence” among nursing staff who provide specialist paediatric skills in the Accident and Emergency department.
As a result, and to ensure that the remaining staff are working at times when the vast majority of children are cared for in the department, officials have reluctantly had to restrict opening hours on a temporary basis from Saturday.
For a two-week period, the paediatric emergency department will only be open from 8am-10pm and the overnight assessment service will not be available.
Helen Ray, South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust’s Chief Operating Officer, said: “Fortunately, only a very small number of children access this overnight service and doctors and nursing teams are working closely with our neighbouring hospitals in Gateshead, Sunderland and Newcastle to ensure that there is minimum impact upon the families of the small number of children who would have visited the department after 10pm.
“Parents are advised that, should they need to seek emergency advice overnight, they can attend the departments at Sunderland Royal Hospital, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Gateshead, or Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary.
“In addition to this, a minor illness and injury service is provided 24 hours a day at Grindon Lane Primary Care Centre in Sunderland. Advice for parents is also available 24 hours a day from the 111 telephone service.
“This temporary arrangement will be reviewed in two weeks time, at which point we will provide further advice. Meanwhile, we do apologise for any disruption caused, which we trust will be minimal, and hope that our local population appreciate that this is in the best interests of patient care.”