Maternity hospital needed alongside new children's hospital to avoid 'catastrophe', PAC will be told

Failure to construct a maternity hospital alongside the new €1.7bn children's hospital on the St James's Hospital (SJH) campus in Dublin would “be a financial and medical catastrophe”.

The warning from the former Master of the Coombe, Prof Chris Fitzpatrick, will be made at the Public Accounts Committee tomorrow along with calls to reconsider the location for the national children's hospital.

He expressed concerns for critically-ill newborns in the new children's hospital without plans for a maternity hospital on the same site.

The obstetrician and gynaecologist said there is still uncertainty about co-location for a maternity hospital on the same site. This was based on recent government and project statements about the children's hospital.

“It’s fair to say that there is widespread scepticism that maternity co-location will or even can happen,” adds Prof Fitzpatrick.

With costs for the children's hospital now at over €1.7bn and a completion date of 2023 with no sign of a co-located maternity hospital, there was a need to assess the situation, and “not just continuing blindly”.

He called for independent testing of the St James's site as a potential site for a maternity hospital.

Prof Fitzpatrick said each year over 200 critically ill new-born infants are transferred within hours of birth from maternity hospitals to specialised children's facilities in Dublin.

The mortality in this group of babies ranges between 5%-18% but the numbers of infants at risk will increase with better scans and more patients coming from the North.

Due to the dangers associated with transit after birth, delivering those babies without prenatal diagnosis and access to paediatric services are serious, warns Prof Fitzpatrick.

Moving babies across the city in ambulances is and would be “hazardous”.

It is also of the utmost importance that these critically-ill babies are cared for close to their mothers during the most vulnerable period of their lives – and that their mothers are not on the post-natal wards of maternity hospitals in different parts of the city.

“Despite the long delays, the change of site to SJH, the exorbitant costs, the stunning architecture and all the spin - they [babies] will still be travelling in ambulances around Dublin, separated from their mothers.”

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