END OF AN ERA: As the last baby is delivered today we talk to heartbroken staff at Mount Carmel hospital
THE last baby to be born at Mount Carmel private hospital in Dublin is set to be delivered today.Mothers who give birth today will stay in the hospital for about five days to recover before the doors of the 65-year-old hospital will close for the last time.
Meanwhile, two thirds of the 370 hospital staff are being handed their notice with the rest of the staff being made redundant next week.
One catering staff member has worked at Mount Carmel for 41 years and many of the rest of the staff across all sections of the hospital have worked there for decades.
Yesterday they formed a queue in front of a temporary office, set up in one of the now empty wards by the Department of Social Protection where they filled out jobseekers allowance applications.
Catering staff, administrative staff, nurses and doctors say they were stunned by last Friday's closure announcement.
"We never saw it coming," says Ann Carolan, who has been nursing there for 28 years and had both her own children at the hospital. She heard when "my aunt phoned me. I'd just booked my holidays".
Anne Seymour was in the labour ward helping a woman deliver her baby when the woman's husband told Anne she was losing her job.
"He had seen it on the RTE website. We all had to carry on as normal, trying to stay professional. It was only later in the day I could acknowledge what had happened."
Anne has worked at Mount Carmel for the past 30 years. She is one of 200 nurses and about 170 other staff who will be out of a job from next week.
By yesterday wards on several floors had already closed down and blue bags of laundry lined the corridors.
Eleanor Byrne came to Mount Carmel 29 years ago, immediately after her midwifery training. She was woken from her sleep after night duty by a friend phoning from the UK to ask her how she was coping.
"While we knew things weren't good and the hospital was in Nama for the last two years this has come as a complete shock," Eleanor said.
"I came into the hospital after I heard and everyone was shocked. There were people in floods of tears, extremely upset. The worst thing was it was so immediate. It's just devastating."
Patricia Kelly, who has worked there for more than 13 years, has three teenage children. "Eleanor rang me and told me. We had been on night duty. I was totally shocked. I just couldn't believe it."
Nuala Stephens, there 14 years, heard while she was in the supermarket. Karen Moloney, working in the hospital 16 years, heard the news from a friend in Tralee. "The hardest thing was still having to come to work and trying to be professional."
Many of the catering staff have worked for Mount Carmel for 40 years and found out through phone calls or from the television.
One who did not want to be named said she was a single mother with two children and had no idea where to turn.
"We're all such good friends here, it's not like a job, it's like your family and this is like the break-up of a family," she added.
Since the hospital was established in 1949 thousands of mothers have given birth there including Bono's wife Ali Hewson, Yvonne Keating and ex-Atomic Kitten singer Kerry Katona.
The hospital also has a reputation for orthopaedic and ear, nose and throat procedures.