Babies put at risk over hospital building problems

Premature babies born at a maternity hospital were put at needless “clinical risk” because of serious building problems linked to a delayed upgrade of the facility.

The neonatal intensive care unit at the National Maternity Hospital, Holles St, Dublin, had to be evacuated last autumn due to a leak in the wall of the 119-year-old structure.

The risk to some newborns was revealed in the recorded minutes of board meetings.

According to the records, obtained by trade publication Irish Medical News, the leak posed a “major issue of clinical risk” as babies had a significant chance of developing potentially serious infections.

The neonatal ICU unit was reopened 20 days after the incident was identified last August.

None of the children suffered unexpected health problems. However, hospital management warned that the issue highlighted the need to speed up the transfer of services from the outdated Holles St complex.

In recent years, Holles St, along with the HSE and Department of Health, discussed the possibility of moving services to a revamped St Vincent’s University Hospital.

Holles St said this was needed as the current building, developed in 1894, was no longer fit for purpose. It had been planned to fast-track the transfer of services due to this problem.

However, due to “commercial reasons”, Holles St management said the move was unlikely to take place for at least five years.

A hospital spokesperson said: “Holles St is reviewing a number of options with the HSE and Department of Health which would have facilitated a fast-track of the move.

“However, for commercial reasons, beyond our control these options are no longer available and we have reverted to pursuing the original options.

“Unfortunately, it means services will continue to be delivered in a building that is not fit for purpose.”

The spokesperson said that due to the ageing infrastructure of Holles St, there was “no doubt” further incidents like that reported in the neonatal unit would “arise in the future”.


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