Limerick hospital staff paint a rainbow of support at Children’s Ark

The new Rainbow Badge was launched in the children's ward this week. Photo: Brian Arthur.

STAFF in the Children’s Ark at University Hospital Limerick are now promoting a culture of inclusivity by donning the HSE Rainbow Badge.

According to the hospital, the badge is a simple visual symbol identifying its wearer as someone an LGBTQI+ person can feel comfortable talking to about issues relating to sexuality and gender identity. It shows that the wearer is there to listen without judgement and signpost to further supports if needed.

The Children’s Ark joins healthcare facilities across the country by taking part in this initiative.

Professor Clodagh O’Gorman, consultant general paediatrician at UHL and chairperson of paediatrics at the University of Limerick explained why the initiative is important.

“Young people who identify as LGBTQI+ experience additional emotional and psychological stresses when compared to non LGBTQI+ youth.  Many people still feel afraid to disclose their sexual or gender identity – being unable to do so often increases their risk of physical and mental health problems.

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“At the Children’s Ark, we want to provide a safe space where the young people using our service feel comfortable discussing any issues relating to their sexuality”.

The Children’s Ark is the first service at UL Hospitals Group to take part in the HSE Rainbow Badge initiative, however, it is anticipated that this initiative will be rolled out to services across entire group.

The HSE provides education and training for all staff who want to take part in this initiative. When staff members sign up to wear the badge, they acknowledge why the project is needed and commit to providing an environment that is open, tolerant and inclusive.

The hospital says that the aim of this initiative is to actively break down barriers which LGBTQI+ people may face when accessing healthcare.

Speaking at the launch of the Rainbow Badge initiative at the Children’s Ark, Verena Tarpey, CEO of GOSHH (Gender, Orientation, Sexual Health, HIV), said: “The research in Ireland is clear that young people who identify as LGBTQI+ face additional stress. For example, 75 per cent of Irish LGBTQI+ individuals believe that healthcare providers lack knowledge and sensitivity around LGBTQI+ issues. The Rainbow Badge may help change this perception.”

“When we think of a young person presenting to the hospital, they may already be overwhelmed with anxiety about their illness. The hospital experience may be less stressful for young people who identify as LGBTQI+ if they can visibly see that they have allies in the staff members who are wearing the badge.”