independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Mary O'Connor: A great day for children -- but don't make them wait until 2018

Picture: @stephenbyrne86

ALL good things come to those who wait -- this is a good day for the children of Dublin and Ireland. Since 1995, Children in Hospital Ireland has been calling for a single children's hospital to service the children of the greater Dublin area and to provide tertiary services to the children of the whole country.

Health Minister James Reilly finally announced that the Children's Hospital is to be built at St James's Hospital. The McKinsey Report recommendation that any new children's hospital should be co-located is satisfied by this decision.

Among the positive outcomes of this build are the elimination of the duplication and triplication of services, and the removal of the need for sick children to be ferried from one hospital to another to avail of diagnostic facilities or treatments. Consultant staff will not have to shuttle between hospitals.

Other benefits accruing from the new hospital will be economies of scale, centralisation of back-end services, and the enhancement of education and research with the new facility becoming a technological hub.

Some children will transition for paediatric to adult services in St James's and the process can be modelled and applied to all transition situations. Specialities which are not yet available at the St James's site must be available before the doors of the new Children's Hospital open.

The new Children's Hospital will provide appropriate care for children -- from infancy to 18 years of age -- in a child-focussed and family-centred environment.

Parents of the patients will have appropriate facilities and the supports necessary so that they can best provide the care, comfort, love and protection their child needs.

The reach of the new hospital will not be confined to its physical location.

In conjunction with the development of the hospital, a new national model of care for sick children will be rolled out. This model will guide the delivery of care in hospitals throughout the country. No matter where they live, children will receive the same quality and standard of service delivery.

Children in Hospital Ireland -- CHI -- congratulates the Government for honouring its commitment to build the hospital in these straitened times; a positive step at a time when lots of decisions fall by the wayside as a result of our economic woes.

The announcement was made in the presence of Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald.

In the week of the Children's Referendum her presence had a particular resonance, a demonstration of the importance being given to children and their rights.

Indeed Dr Reilly, in his opening remarks, stated that a country could be judged on how it treats its children.

While the development at the Mater site has come to nought as a result of the decision by An Bord Pleanala, the exceptional work carried out by the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board and the design team for the Mater site has to be acknowledged. The vision shown must not be lost when plans are being drawn for the hospital at the St James' site.

Dr Reilly's announcement that the Cabinet had approved his recommendation to locate the new children's hospital at St James's Hospital in Dublin 8 is to be welcomed.

The announcement has brought to an end the speculation and exasperation brought about by the delay. However, the welcome given to the go-ahead is tempered by Dr Reilly's statement that the completion date could be as far away as 2018.

Surely not. Such a delay since a single hospital was first mooted is not acceptable.

Children in Hospital Ireland urges that Dr Reilly and the Government expedite the progress to ensure the hospital will be available for our sick children before 2018.

We can no longer tolerate the delivery of care to sick children in environments which fall far short of what is required in the 21st Century. We know it can be done!

Mary O'Connor is CEO of Children in Hospital Ireland.

Irish Independent

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