Belfast Telegraph

New children's heart centre opens

Ireland's youngest cardiac patients will have individual heart monitors for the first time when a new state of the art ward opens tomorrow.

A new 25-bed Children's Heart Centre in Our Lady's Children's Hospital Crumlin will take in its first patients after parents raised 4.5m euro for the facility.

Space is available for three more sick youngsters if health chiefs lift the recruitment moratorium and give the go ahead for more nursing staff.

Dr Orla Franklin, consultant paediatric cardiologist, said children and parents could not be expected to "endure unacceptably inadequate conditions" for up to another seven years waiting for a new national children's hospital.

She revealed that up to now new mothers have been forced to sleep on floors and in chairs next to their baby's cot in the outdated, overcrowded and cramped St Teresa's ward.

"At any time, 50% of the women on our ward have given birth in the last two weeks because the babies by and large who come are kids under six weeks of age who have critical cardiovascular disease," she said.

"So you have post natal woman, who have C sections, who have had vaginal deliveries, lying down on a hard floor next to these kids day and night."

One in every 100 babies born in Ireland is born with a congenital heart defect.

Some 10,000 children will pass through the hospital very year, with 550 undergoing major heart surgery to save their tiny lives, 350 getting stents or similar operations and up to 400 need imaging scans.

Individual heart monitors linked to a central control have been donated by the Bay Max Wings of Love Fund at a cost of 230,000 euro, with facilities - including a children's playground and televisions - given by businesses for free.

"On the ward down there (St Teresa's), it's tiny, and between 25 children we have seven cardiac monitors," Dr Franklin said.

"They're tiny little portable ones, we fight over them and we decide who the sickest seven are. That is completely unacceptable."

Children and their families from all over Ireland can spend weeks, months or even up to a year in the hospital depending on the severity of their condition.

Dr Franklin revealed the waiting list for non-emergency cases is up to two years, but all emergency and serious cases are seen within a day.

Two newborn babies delivered in maternity hospitals last night will undergo surgery tomorrow, she added.

Fiona Fox's seven-month-old daughter Nevaeh will also undergo her first major operation for a hole in her heart tomorrow morning.

The infant will spend two days in intensive care before being moved to the new ward for up to three weeks recovery.

"It is unbelievable the difference up here," said the 26-year-old mum from Kells as they visited the new centre.

"It's so much nicer and better for parents and staff. The other ward is so different and smaller with very little facilities."

Funds were raised through the Children's Medical & Research Foundation (CMRF) Fix Crumlin.ie fund-raising campaign, which also collected money to build the new cancer unit at the facility.

Architect David Petherbridge, whose daughter Hannah is a patient, designed the new build.

Four-year-old Holly Moore was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome while still in the womb.

Now an outpatient, she has already undergone three major surgeries - the first at three days old - and will need a heart transplant in the future.

Holly was only five hours old when her mother Tara was transferred from Holles Street, and spent more than four months on St Teresa's.

"It was crazy," said Mrs Moore, 28, a mother-of-three from Offaly.

"It just makes a difficult situation so much harder.

"You have a sick child who is really open to an infection. It wasn't a sterile enough environment to have children in.

"It was very stuffy, just about enough room for a pull-up bed, and a lot of the time we were in shared cubicles."

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