Tuesday 23 January 2018

Maternity hospital 'vital' on site of new children's hospital - expert

An artist’s impression of the entrance to the new National Children’s Hospital.
An artist’s impression of the entrance to the new National Children’s Hospital.

Clodagh Sheehy

TINY babies will die unless a Maternity Hospital is included on the proposed site for the new Children’s Hospital, child cancer specialist Fin Breatnach has warned.

Dr Breatnach also fears that the new Children’s Hospital is “simply incapable of meeting its intended purpose for the next 100 years”.

Staff at the country’s three children’s hospitals have also overwhelmingly rejected the decision to build the new hospital on the St James’ campus in Dublin in a recent survey

Representing The New Children’s Hospital Alliance, retired child oncologist Dr Breatnach told an An Bord Pleanala hearing  that the Alliance “accepts overwhelmingly” the need to unite the current three children’s hospitals on a single site.

The combined expertise would “selectively bring about the greatest improvement in the clinical outcomes for children who are beyond neonatal age.”

The Alliance was concerned, however, that the site on St James’s was too constrained and would be difficult to expand and their preference was for a large greenfield site, not one in the city centre.

He rejected the argument that the Children’s Hospital needed to co-locate with an Adult Acute Hospital.

There was “absolutely no substance” to claims by both the Tanaiste Joan Burton and Health Minister Leo Varadkar, said Dr Breatnach,  that clinical outcomes for children would be improved by co-locating on a site with an adult hospital.

Our Lady’s Hospital in Crumlin provided almost 85pc of all the sickest children in the country and had achieved internationally recognised standards, without having an adult hospital on the site, he added.

Dr Breatnach stressed, however, that co-location with a maternity hospital was “absolutely critical” for the safe transfer of over 160 high risk infants every year from maternity hospitals.

The Alliance was concerned that the building of a maternity hospital on the site  “has now become optional”

“Our Alliance believes the likelihood of a maternity hospital being built on this constricted site is uncertain to say the least.  If it is not built then it is inevitable that babies will die each year as a result.”

Citing a recent baby death on a five minute trip from the Coombe Maternity Hospital to Our Lady’s Hospital in Crumlin, he said existing procedures resulted in significant deaths among “these tiny vulnerable newborns.

“Further preventable deaths will occur if a maternity hospital is not provided physically attached to the National Paediatric Hospital on the St James’s site,” he stessed.

Dr Breatnach pointed out that the plans for the hospital on the St James’s campus had no ground level gardens for patients.

 The roof top garden on the 4th floor was completely surrounded by a further three storeys of hospital buildings.

There were not enough car parking spaces for either staff or patients.

Parking for staff was “grossly inadequate’ considering many nurses currently commuted from satellite towns which had poor public transport services.

Families also needed adequate parking as private cars were likely to remain the preferred choice both for parents living locally and those having to travel long distances who often had to bring other children with them in addition to the patient.

A recent Crumlin survey of  700 families showed that 81pc had travelled by car.

Dr Breatnach also explained that the most seriously ill children and their parents revisiting hospital more than any other group and any deficiency would have the greatest negative impact on this group.

Space would be the single most valuable resource for the new hospital.  New services and technology in future decades would require additional space.

Choosing the right site “offers a priceless opportunity to position an institution to meet the evolving needs of health care in the future”, he concluded

The Alliance had significant concerns about the possible future expansion “on this constrained site” and there could even be significant planning risks ahead in relation to the proposed maternity hospital,, he said.

A staff survey carried out by the New Children’s Hospital Alliance of staff at the existing three children's hospitals  found that 84pc were against the St James location.

A total of  72pc favoured building the hospital on the current Connolly hospital campus in Blanchardstown.

Details of the survey were given to the An Bord Pleanala hearing.

Objections to the survey were raised by the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board on the grounds that it was “cursory” and  “entirely unscientific”.  Only 257 had responded from a total staff of 3,447, the questions were "leading" and the survey should be treated with the "utmost caution".

An Bord Pleanala Inspector Tom Rabbitte noted the objections but allowed healthcare professional Rosemary Dwyer to present the findings to the hearing.

Ms Dwyer said none of the staff at any of the children’s hospitals were consulted about the decision by politicians to locate the new hospital at St James’s.

It had left them with “a sense of powerlessness.  A resignation has descended on us”.

She pointed out that 75pc of children needing specialist care at Crumlin, where she worked, came from outside the M50 and it was impractical to use public transport with a sick child.

Dublin property prices had forced hospital staff to move out into the commuter belt.  Public transport, she added, was often not an option for distance and family considerations

The campus at Connolly hospital offered a large greenfield site and would not be “an artificial world in a concrete jungle”.

She said the survey had been carried out among staff in October and it also showed that 79pc favoured co-location with a maternity hospital and 87pc of staff were concerned about limited parking spaces.

Those who took part in the survey were composed of 19pc administrative staff, 20pc allied healthcare workers, 12pc medical staff, 37pc nurses,7pc others and 5pc had not answered the questions.

Online Editors

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News