Private donors come to aid of children’s facility

A vital facility catering for some of Ireland’s most seriously ill children has been dragged into the 21st century after big-hearted private donors stepped in to fill a Government funding hole.

From today, cardiac patients at Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin, Dublin, will be treated at the newly opened 27-bed children’s heart centre.

The ward, which cost €4.5m to develop, replaces the antiquated St Teresa’s unit, which was built in the 1940s and has been regularly criticised for its lack of resources and space for seriously ill children.

Among the problems were the fact just seven heart monitors were available for 25 patients and that new mothers — half of whom had given birth within two weeks — were asked to sleep on the floor while their children received help because of the cramped conditions.

While the Department of Health planned to fund a replacement development in 2008, the economic crash and the suggestion the issue would be resolved by the still-awaited new national children’s hospital meant the cash injection was shelved.

However, after a campaign by the hospital’s Children’s Medical and Research Foundation, donors ranging from former patients to sports stars came forward to provide the necessary money, resulting in the opening of the state-of-the-art ward today.

Consultant paediatric cardiologist, Dr Orla Franklin, said the money has been used to provide dedicated heart monitors for every patient, individual rooms for families to sleep next to their children and storage space for parents who need to spend lengthy periods at the ward. A specially designed playground for children who have undergone open heart surgery, flat screen TVs and spaces for parents to work while living at the unit have also been developed.

Dr Franklin said the improvements are vital to providing real patient care.

Mother-of-three Tara Moore, whose four-year-old daughter Holly is being treated at the hospital and will eventually need a heart transplant, said the old unit was a “crazy” scenario which “just made the whole situation harder”.

The unit was developed by architect David Petherbridge, who saw the inadequacies of the old facility when his daughter Hannah — now a healthy six-year-old in junior infants — was born in 2007.

Antiquated conditions

The sheer lack of space and resources in the old Crumlin cardiac unit meant there were just seven heart monitor machines to cater for 25 seriously ill children.

Consultant paediatric cardiologist Dr Orla Franklin made the revelation during a tour of the new state-of-the-art replacement for the old facility, which opens today.

The medic said the antiquated St Teresa’s unit was built in the 1940s and put patients, families and even staff in traumatic situations. Dr Franklin said physicians had to effectively fight each other to ensure their patients received heart monitors.

Parents including mothers who had just given birth, were also forced to sleep on the floor near their children while the cramped spaces significantly increased the chances of infections which could prove fatal for some children. Initial Department of Health plans to revamp the unit were shelved in 2008, meaning private donors had to pay for the lifesaving reforms.


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