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Children’s hospital decision needed

The report documenting avoidable deaths of children in the care of the Department of Health/HSE over the last decade brings shame on us all and must bring renewed focus on the proposed new National Paediatric Hospital (NPH).

The ‘National Model of Care for Paediatric Healthcare in Ireland’ states that this hospital is “the core component of an integrated healthcare system for Ireland’s children”. The cut-off age for the new NPH is to be 16 years, yet many of the children who died in care were in the later years of adolescence.

In 2006, the McKinsey report on children’s hospital services analysed only the needs of 0-16 year olds. Why? Because “patients [in Ireland] aged 16 and above were generally treated as adults”. The report therefore only classified under 16 year olds as “paediatric”.

In 2008 the RKW Framework Brief for the NPH at the Mater site states “in modelling future capacity requirements we have taken the cut-off age at 16 years in line with McKinsey”. It also says “the projected bed demand [in Dublin] for 2021 for the 16-18 year old age group is of the order of 50 beds”. Patently such extra capacity for this, and for other services, was not and is not available at restricted city sites.

In 2009 the umbrella Children’s Rights Alliance, representing more than 90 organisations in Ireland, in its submission to the NPH Development Board stated, twice, ”The National Children’s Hospital must cater for all children up to the age of 18”. No such capacity adjustment has been made.

The disconnect between our DoH/HSE and our children is palpable. A solitary ray of hope has been the creation of the new Department of Children and Youth Affairs. However, that department, though our organisation called for its participation, was not represented on the recent NPH Review Group. The cabinet would do well to listen to its Minister for Children. Our children and the needs and rights of their childhood, not adult institutions or local city regeneration, must be the genuine centre of the cabinet’s imminent decision on the location of the NPH. This decision will require great statesmanship.

The Children’s Rights Alliance says “It is a hospital for the future, and must plan for future capacity and future service provision”. The M50 ring road beckons — the grounds of the James Connolly hospital perhaps? Then might we say of our dead children, as with Yeats in 1916, “Was it needless death after all... a terrible beauty is born”.

Roisin Healy

The New Children’s Hospital Alliance

Ranelagh

Dublin 6


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