Belfast Telegraph

IMO warns new children’s care centre faces ‘insurmountable obstacles’

The facility is due to open in Blanchardstown on July 31.

Officials have warned of ‘insurmountable obstacles’ (Peter Byrne/PA)
Officials have warned of ‘insurmountable obstacles’ (Peter Byrne/PA)

The Irish Medical Organisation has expressed “deep concerns” about the planned opening of a new children’s care centre at Dublin’s Connolly Hospital next week.

IMO consultant committee member Dr Peadar Gilligan warned that the failure to publish a detailed risk assessment was causing concerns that the urgent care centre was facing “insurmountable obstacles” which could prevent it opening as scheduled.

It is due to open in Blanchardstown on July 31 as part of the broader roll-out of the new National Children’s Hospital.

A risk assessment was conducted on the centre but its outcome has not been published.

The body has called for its immediate publication.

“The IMO fully supports the development of enhanced services for children; however, we have very serious concerns regarding the scheduled opening of the Urgent Care Centre in Connolly Hospital on July 31,” Dr Gilligan said.

“We are now just days away from the scheduled opening, yet we have still to see a detailed and up-to-date risk assessment to confirm that the centre is fit to operate – even on the restricted basis that the Children’s Hospital Group has admitted will be necessary.”

The former IMO president said the Health Service Executive (HSE) was finding it impossible to recruit sufficient consultants to operate the new services for children in the light of “discrimination by Government against all consultants appointed since 2012”.

The cost of the Children’s Hospital has consumed the political system, yet no effort has been made to address how the satellite centres and the hospital are going to be staffed or how care is going to be delivered. Dr Peadar Gilligan

The IMO said consultants recruited since October 2012 are earning up to 50,000 euro per annum less than colleagues employed before October 2012 who are doing exactly the same job.

The IMO believes that these cuts are directly linked to the 500-plus empty consultant posts across the country.

Dr Gilligan said the blame lies solely with the Government over its failure to deal with the “crisis” in recruitment for many years.

“When he was Minister for Health, our current Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar TD, insisted that the pay issue should be dealt with and agreed to the basic right of equal pay for equal work,” Dr Gilligan said.

“The current Minister for Health, Simon Harris TD, also committed in April of this year to begin a process to address the issue – yet nothing has been done.”

Dr Gilligan added: “The cost of the Children’s Hospital has consumed the political system, yet no effort has been made to address how the satellite centres and the hospital are going to be staffed or how care is going to be delivered.

“Since 2012, we have simply not been able to attract doctors to our health service and, at the same time, our newly qualified doctors are leaving Ireland to work abroad in health systems where no discrimination exists.

“While these sub-standard working conditions and pay discrimination exist, we will never have enough consultants to deliver timely care to the population, which means patients will be denied services and wait longer for care with all the adverse consequences that entails.”

Patient safety is at the centre of all decision-making at CHI facilities and therefore is a central part of the pre-opening critical path Children's Health Ireland

In a statement, Children’s Health Ireland (CHI), the group that oversees the operation of the three existing paediatric hospitals in the capital, said it was “to be expected that risks exist” ahead of the opening but added that patient safety was at the centre of all decision-making at CHI facilities.

It described the opening of the facility as an important milestone in the overall new children’s hospital project.

“CHI is responsible for the delivery of healthcare services to children and young people,” the statement said.

“At all times, it is focused on ensuring that these services are delivered in an appropriate and safe setting. The CHI works in partnership with its clinical colleagues to do this.

“Patient safety is at the centre of all decision-making at CHI facilities and therefore is a central part of the pre-opening critical path.

“It is to be expected that risks exist in the pre-opening period; however, all risks identified by CHI management and by clinicians have reduced due to mitigation actions in recent weeks.”

It said a meeting with clinicians was scheduled to take place on Friday afternoon to share the updated risk assessment and mitigation plan that would support the centre opening at Connolly Hospital on July 31 as planned.

It added that a phased opening of the centre was “necessary” because of the “temporary vacancies in consultant posts”.

PA

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