The first of two children's urgent care centres that will open as planned today will provide a safe service despite a shortage of senior doctors, the head Children's Health Ireland insists.
CHI chief executive, Eilish Hardiman, was speaking after taking members of the media around the new facility beside Conolly Hospital in Blanchardstown, Dublin.
The centre will only be open between 10am and 5pm weekdays because of a shortage of key staff. It had been intended to have the facility open between 8am and midnight seven days a week.
“The clinicians and our director of quality and safety and the whole of the executive team are confident that with the reduced opening hours and the solutions we have put forward it (the centre) is safe,” said Ms Hardiman.
“It is normal to open up on a phased basis. It is something that you would do just to settle everything down and get all the processes right because it is new – it is new to GPs and the community,” she said.
Ms Hardiman said the centre is a model of care specially designed for children and it will take time to get it right:
It is a great milestone because it the first of the three major milestones to get to the new national children's hospital.
The children's hospital, due to open in the autumn next year will have two satellite centres at Tallaght and Blanchardstown.
The outpatients' department at Connolly Hospital will initially open on a phased basis and include two specialities – general paediatrics and trauma orthopaedics.
Ms Hardiman said 140 new roles including doctors, nurses and health and social care professionals are needed to operate the centre seven days a week. At the moment they have around 100 staff that allow the centre to open five days a week.
Ms Hardiman said they have only been able to fill three of the five radiology posts. While CHI continues to look for candidates to fill the vacant posts existing radiologists have extended their working hours.
They were able to recruit six paediatric emergency medicine consultants and four general paediatric consultants and recruitment is ongoing for a further three consultants.
Ms Hardiman, who has worked on the children's hospital project for 13 years, said there is a challenge around the issue of pay restoration for post-2012 consultants: “That is a challenge because we are in a global market.
That is one issue we cannot solve – we have raised it and escalated it to the HSE and onto the Department of Health as a policy issue that needs to be addressed.
Construction work on the new centre started in October 2017 and the building was transferred to the development board in May 2018 for commissioning.
Paediatric executive lead, Dr Ciara Martin, said the centre was designed to provide an integrated service: “The idea is to bring the patients in, see them really quickly, get them treated by the right people, do everything that we need to do and get them home."