Sad end for a special hospital that has delivered so much joy
IT was with great sadness that I learnt that Mount Carmel Hospital in Dublin is now insolvent. The hospital, which has been besieged by problems, will soon close its doors and more than 300 staff will lose their jobs.
My three children were born in Mount Carmel and I have only fond memories of my time there. The staff was professional and caring and I owe a deep debt of gratitude to the nurses, midwives and especially to my obstetrician, Gerry Rafferty, for the safe delivery of my children.
But Mount Carmel is much more than a maternity hospital. It offers surgical procedures in orthopaedics, ophthalmology, general surgery and urology to name a few.
My father had successful knee replacement surgery there last year and was treated with great care and kindness.
Mount Carmel opened its doors in 1949. Following its purchase by a developer its loans were acquired from AIB by NAMA in 2010.
The hospital has incurred "significant losses" since then and efforts to sell it have proved fruitless.
In December 2013 the Department of Health and the HSE said they were not interested in buying the hospital.
The company which owns it is now insolvent and unable to pay its debts and because it couldn't be sold NAMA decided "it can no longer continue to fund unsustainable losses" and yesterday the directors of Mount Carmel Hospital asked the High Court to approve a liquidator.
Mount Carmel has admitted that it does not have the funds to continue to trade beyond next week. This is very worrying news for the many expectant mothers who are booked in to deliver their babies there in the coming months.
In an attempt to reassure the women and avoid panic – women in late-term pregnancies are not always at their most reasonable – the hospital has released a statement saying that, "Obstetrics patients scheduled over the coming days will be fully cared for in Mount Carmel."
The hospital added that the other expectant women would be transferred to alternative maternity hospitals. The hospital is also keen to reassure current patients that they won't be thrown out on to the street and that, "all current patients in the hospital will be fully cared for".
It's a sad day when an institution such as Mount Carmel closes down. So many people have such good memories of walking out those big double doors with a newborn baby in their arms or a new hip or knee.
When I went to visit my father after his knee operation, I smiled as I walked through the reception area, remembering the three times I'd waddled in, ready to give birth, full of nervous anticipation; and the three times I'd sailed out those same doors blessed with a bonny baby in my arms.
Mount Carmel's demise was mainly down to two huge obstacles – the changes in the health insurance market and the downturn in the economy. The hospital was left with the option of closing its doors immediately, which it said was "not an option"; or having liquidators appointed who would ensure an orderly winding up of the business.
Could the hospital have been saved? It doesn't seem so. Apparently the two bids that were made for it contained so many caveats that they were unacceptable and could have involved additional financial exposure for the taxpayer. And, let's face it, the taxpayers in this country are crippled as it is.
Mount Carmel will always hold a very special place in my heart and the hearts of so many parents and patients. There is no indication yet of what redundancy terms will apply. One can only hope that the talented and dedicated staff will find employment in other hospitals around the country. It would be a terrible shame to see these gifted professionals leave our shores to find work elsewhere.