It’s just what the doctor ordered, the colourful creation that is the new €13m paediatric outpatient unit at Cork University Hospital (CUH). All that’s needed now is another €17m to bring the inpatient accommodation up to scratch.

That was the message for Taoiseach Enda Kenny who cut the ribbon on the new unit yesterday, where children with cystic fibrosis and diabetes will have dedicated treatment rooms; where researchers will study the brainwaves of sleeping babies to follow their neuro- developmental progress and where scientists will have a biobank to store blood and tissue samples.

So far, so positive. The main worry now among staff is that the ballooning budget of the new National Paediatric Hospital in Dublin will eat into the funds needed to ensure CUH can live up to its billing as a regional centre of paediatrics.

In her speech at the opening, Professor Geraldine McCarthy, chair of the South South West Hospital Group, said the outpatient development was “only the beginning” and that her hope for the 80-bed inpatient development was that “nothing will interfere with the funding stream”.

Jonathan Hourihane, professor of paediatrics at University College Cork, said while the new facility is fantastic, it was vital that the inpatient unit also went ahead.

“Children deserve the best and they deserve to access the best locally,” he said. Failure to upgrade the inpatient facilities would cause people to vote with their feet and travel to Dublin, once the new paediatric hospital was built.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny with Joe Brown of the cystic fibrosis charity Build4life at the opening of the new paediatric outpatients unit at Cork University Hospital. Picture: Dan Linehan

“The HSE planners can’t walk away from us thinking that we are finished. This in only phase one,” he said.

Mr Kenny beat around the bush for a while before getting to the matter of funding. When he did it was to state, erroneously, that the new unit had been made possible by HSE funding.

In fact, the HSE put up half the money and fundraising, philanthropy and UCC took care of the rest. The marathon efforts of cystic fibrosis charity Build4Life and The Children’s Leukaemia Association went unacknowledged in his speech.

As for the outstanding €17m for the inpatient unit — a review of capital projects is currently under way and Mr Kenny pledged to have a chat with Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe to see what could be done.

Consultant paediatrician David Mullane said that he was reassured that the Taoiseach has acknowledged the need for further investment.

“Prior to this, it was disappointing that there was no capital funding allocated for phase two in 2017,” he said.


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