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Organ transplant travel centre has no key staff

A NATIONAL "centre" aimed at preventing a repeat of the blunder which cost teenager Meadhbh McGivern a liver transplant will begin operating from today, despite the fact that its key staff have as yet to be recruited.

The creation of a 24-hour centre to co-ordinate all transfers of patients to the UK was the key recommendation of a report into the circumstances surrounding Ms McGivern's missed transplant in July 2011.

The Leitrim teenager missed her first transplant when the authorities in charge of organising her transfer failed to get her to the UK on time.

More than 12 weeks on from its original deadline the HSE has now confirmed that the centre will begin operating from today out of the National Ambulance Control Centre's headquarters in Dublin.

Staff at Crumlin Hospital, who were previously charged with organising the transfer of transplant patients to UK hospitals, were yesterday informed by email that the responsibility would now fall under the remit of the new centre.

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) had recommended in its report that a National Aero-medical Coordination Centre be fully staffed and operational by October 12, 2012.

The recommendation was made after it was discovered that no one person or agency was in charge of making arrangements to transfer transplant patients to the UK.

As a result HIQA called on the HSE to establish a separate centre to manage the system.

A spokeswoman for the HSE said yesterday a recruitment process for staff to manage the centre was currently under way -- however, no timeframe was given as to when these staff would be put in place.

The spokeswoman confirmed the new Aero-medical coordination centre would be responsible for booking all air transfers for patients, both through the Air Corps and private carriers.

Fifteen-year-old Meadhbh, from Ballinamore, Co Leitrim, is recuperating at home following her a liver transplant which took place at King's College Hospital in London in September.

Meadhbh's father Joe McGivern gave the announcement a "cautious welcome".

"This is a move in the right direction; however the recommended competent and trained staff are still not in place.

"It is welcome news that something seems to be moving now. We will, however, wait for further development and clarity on how this is going to work in the hope that other families will never have to endure what we went through."

Irish Independent