#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 5°C Thursday 20 January 2022

Calls for children's urgent care centre at Connolly hospital to open until midnight

The Department of Health has said the opening hours of the new unit have not yet been finalised.

Paediatric Outpatient and Urgent Care Centre at Connolly Hospital.
Paediatric Outpatient and Urgent Care Centre at Connolly Hospital.
Image: National Children's Hospital

THERE HAVE BEEN calls for the new Paediatric Outpatient and Urgent Care Centre at Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown to be open until midnight. 

A National Children’s Hospital document from 2016 outlines that the new care centre will deliver “consultant-delivered emergency care” from 8am to midnight, every day. 

The unit is due to open on 31 July.

However, the Department of Health has said the “initial hours of operation for delivery of service have not been finalised”.

Sinn Féin’s Louise O’Reilly has said the promise of operational hours from 8am to midnight, seven days a week, should be rolled out, as was previously committed to.

Opening hours 

She has called on Health Minister Simon Harris and the department to ensure that the opening hours are not from 8am to 12pm, stating that a “brand new facility for children” should not be operating with “significantly reduced hours and reduced days due to a lack of staff”. 

“This is the result of the serious problems facing the recruitment and retention of consultant doctors across the health service. If the government do not address the issues causing these recruitment difficulties then this facility may never be fully operational at the hours promised – this is incredibly frustrating because it is children and parents who will suffer as a result,” she said. 

Harris confirmed that the initial opening hours of the new facility will depend on what Children’s Health Ireland observes about community need and patient volume, with a decision on the “best hours to open the service”  to be made after those observations. 

On the issue of staffing, Harris said recruitment is well under way to secure the required staff for the opening of the outpatient urgent care centre at Connolly Hospital.

There had been concerns earlier this year that the centre would not come on stream on time due to insufficient numbers of required medical staff being recruited. 

“A total of 13 consultant posts are required and, to date, I believe 10 of these positions have been filled – six paediatric emergency medicine consultants and four general paediatric consultants – and recruitment is ongoing for the remaining posts,” he said. 

Staffing the care unit 

Children’s Health Ireland has said all nursing positions have been successfully filled, with nurses working within the health service agreeing to move to the new facility.

The delivery of services at the centre will be provided on a phased basis, said the minister.

“During the initial opening phase from July to December 2019, two specialties – general paediatrics and orthopaedics – will deliver outpatient services at Connolly. Importantly, this will provide an additional 3,600 fracture orthopaedics and 2,750 general paediatric outpatient appointments, which is more than 6,000 additional children who will get treated from July to December as a result of the opening of this new facility,” said Harris. 

When fully operational, it is projected that Connolly’s urgent care centre will provide 33,000 outpatient appointments on an annual basis, contributing to significant reductions in waiting times and waiting experience, as well as 25,000 urgent care assessments, 30,000 X-rays and 6,000 ultrasounds, said the minister. 

O’Reilly said that if consultants from either Temple Street or Crumlin are being transferred, “what we are effectively doing is just taking that service away and shuffling people around, and we are still going to have backlogs, waiting lists and intolerable working conditions for consultants”.

‘Sceptical’ about recruitment

The Sinn Féin TD said she is “sceptical” about the level of recruitment, and that she believes just four consultants will work in emergency medicine, not six. 

“If those consultants are taken from the other hospitals, effectively, we are just shuffling around the deckchairs but there will be no improvement in service,” she said, adding that a lot of downgrading of services will happen in the other hospitals as the new facility begins operating.

She said patients are depending on this service being open from 8am to midnight.

“There was a commitment to operate seven days a week from 8am to midnight. When are we going to know what the opening hours are? Obviously, people need to plan. The health service does not run on a 24-hour cycle and it needs to plan in advance, and the other hospitals will need to know,” said O’Reilly. 

The minister previously stated that a decision on the opening hours was to be announced in June. However, a statement from the department this week “the initial hours of operation for delivery of service have not been finalised”. 

Read next:


This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel