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Monday 20 November 2017

Children's hospital will run out of cash within six months

Sile Seoige joined more than 1,000 Midsummer Moonwalkers at the Convention Centre Dublin on Saturday night to take part in a minute of remembrance for loved ones in hospices
Sile Seoige joined more than 1,000 Midsummer Moonwalkers at the Convention Centre Dublin on Saturday night to take part in a minute of remembrance for loved ones in hospices

Brian McDonald

THE country's biggest hospital for sick children is on the brink of running out of funds, the Irish Independent can reveal.

The 248-bed Our Lady's Children's Hospital in Crumlin, Dublin, will run out of money before the end of the year, its own board has admitted.

Unless an emergency bailout can be put in place, it says services at the hospital will be severely affected. Waiting lists will grow rapidly and vital surgical procedures will have to be deferred.

But Health Minister James Reilly has made it clear to the board that it has to cope with the funding allocation agreed at the start of the year.

He has also instructed the secretary general of his department to advise the HSE that all budget holders across the health service have to make ends meet.

Crumlin is Ireland's largest paediatric hospital, employing over 1,600 staff. It treats almost 25,000 in-patient and day cases and performs 13,500 operating procedures each year.

Concerns

But chairman of the board of directors, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, has outlined major concerns that funds will run dry within six months.

Crumlin received funding of almost €120m for this year -- a cut of €5m on 2010. It already has a deficit of €10m carried forward from 2007.

The hospital board met on June 8 to consider the financial crisis, which has been looming for some time.

Following the meeting, Archbishop Martin wrote to the minister and to the chief executive of the HSE, Cathal Magee.

He noted in his letter that the minister had directed that any proposed service restrictions should be brought to his direct attention.

"At the start of 2011, based on our HSE revenue allocation, Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin faced a funding gap of €9m," the archbishop wrote.

"In response, the hospital has introduced a targeted management plan, which will realise €4m through real cost reduction and income generation."

But he said a total of €3.1m which was to be saved directly by the HSE through its national procurement programme has not been delivered.

"We estimate this programme will deliver less than €100,000," he added.

In addition, the hospital faces additional shortfalls, including superannuation liabilities.

In a stark warning on the perilous state of the hospital's financial situation, he warned: "On the basis of current funding and expenditure projections, OLCHC will run out of cash in November 2011.

". . .if there is no remedy found for the current funding deficit, it is inevitable that we will not be able to maintain the levels of service we currently provide to sick children and their families."

Waiting lists would lengthen due to the cancellations of admissions for required surgery and medical assessment.

And the board estimated that 16pc of theatre capacity would be lost, resulting in 2,000 fewer procedures.

Dr Martin added that in order to maintain existing levels of service this year, the hospital required "recurring allocation adjustment of €5m" and "certainty regarding cash facilities available for drawdown".

But the minister has delivered an unambiguous response to Dr Martin. "Every budget holder within the health service must achieve the expenditure targets set at the start of the year," said Dr Reilly last night.

HSE spokesman Paul Connors said: "We continue to work closely with Crumlin Children's Hospital and the other two hospitals in order to provide a more integrated and joined-up approach to paediatric services delivery in these times of financial challenge."

The crisis will likely overshadow the opening of a paediatric intensive care unit at Crumlin today. The unit, costing €9.5m, was funded by the HSE and will bring the number of ICU beds at the hospital to 25.

Irish Independent

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