Ireland's only 24-hour sexual assault clinic for children to close

The centre in Galway is the only one that caters for those under 14

Galway, Child, Adolescent, Sexual Assault Treatment Unit, SATU, Dr Joanne Nelson, closure

Posed file photo of a silhouette of a young person | Image: Anna Gowthorpe / PA Wire/Press Association Images

Four medical experts with the only 24-hour treatment service for young victims of sexual assault in the State have withdrawn their services.

It follows a breakdown in negotiations with the Health Service Executive (HSE).

The Child and Adolescent Sexual Assault Treatment Unit (SATU) in Galway provides services to those under 14 years of age.

There are other treatment units in Cork, Donegal, Dublin, Mullingar, Limerick and Waterford.

However, this is the only one that specifically caters for those under the age of 14.

Dr Joanne Nelson is one of the co-founders of the clinic.

"We're talking about a deficit of €100,00 per annum...The total cost of the service is €212,000 per annum", she told Newstalk Lunchtime.

"With that, that will funds four specialised examiners, two consultant pediatricians, one consultant gynecologist and a specialist general practitioner to provide a 24-hour service for child victims of sexual assault".

"As from Monday, there is nowhere in the country that can provide an out-of-hours service for those children - so there can be no forensic evidence sought and the children do not have an access to any service that will bring forward a prosecution".

"We're not blaming anybody - we have sought actively to promote a gold standard service and what we are basing our negotiations on is international best practice".

"As a forensic examiner, as a pediatrician, as a medical legal expert in court - I need to stand up in criminal court and say the service I have provided is gold standard, it meets international best practice".

"We're not prepared to cut corners for these patients - it's too important," she added.