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Our children's hospitals are 'Third World'

A LEADING paediatric cancer specialist has warned that Ireland is abandoning thousands of children to Third World hospital conditions.

Professor Owen Smith warned that critically ill children cannot wait until 2017 for the children's hospital to be completed, insisting that existing facilities at Our Lady's Children's Hospital in Crumlin must be overhauled immediately.

Hitting out at the out-of-date conditions at the children's hospital, Prof Smith, a Consultant Paediatric Haematologist, said that up to 1,000 new cancer patients and over 3,000 cardiac patients will begin treatment in the next five years.

"They are telling us it will be five years and that is probably a good estimate but it could be seven or eight. We are talking about thousands of patients.

"We are forgetting about this generation of children," he said.

His comments come as the mother of one seriously ill child told the Herald of horrendous conditions at Crumlin Children's Hospital.

Ava Diggin (4) from Kilorglin, Co Kerry, is battling leukemia at the hospital. Her mother Emer is one of the dozens of parents forced to sleep in camp beds on the floor of their children's rooms.

Another trauma for young patients is the lack of privacy, according to Ms Diggin. Each room must accommodate two patients, with teenagers often sharing with young children.

"We were sharing a room with a 16-year-old girl going through chemo. She had no privacy. She would be sobbing into her pillow so she wouldn't upset Ava," said Ms Diggin.

The lack of even a playroom for the children makes it impossible to keep the young patients minds off their sickness.

Another major concern for the families is the infection fears from the shared toilets.

"Ava's immune system is gone. She is totally exposed and yet she has to use these shared facilities. It is a constant worry," Ms Diggin said.

The Children's Medical & Research Foundation at Our Lady's Children's Hospital Crumlin has raised €4m towards renovating the cancer and cardiac facilities at the hospital. A further €4m is needed to complete the renovations.