Parents excited as Children's Hospital edges closer to reality
Enhanced care for children is top priority for Cork University Hospital, where a planning application could see work on a new Children's Hospital start during late 2022
nticipation is building among parents of sick children living in Munster as a planning application edges forward for the long-awaited dedicated Children's Hospital at Cork University Hospital.
While children are currently being housed in two former adult wards, momentum is building around plans for the €60m purpose-built 78-bed facility, to be located on the existing grounds of CUH.
Hospital staff are going to phenomenal lengths to care for their young patients, but they are very aware of the urgent need to upgrade the facilities.
CUH Children’s Unit: Clinical nurse manager Marie Watson, consultant paediatrician Dave Mullane and Karen Nixon in the Puffin Children’s unit at the CUH, Cork. Picture: Dan Linehan
Dr Dave Mullane, Clinical Director of Paediatrics at CUH, said: “Of the 78 single, en-suite rooms, six will be high-dependency rooms providing 1-to-1 nursing care for those sicker children who need more intensive treatment and observation.
“We will have dedicated Children’s haematology and oncology unit which will relocate from Mercy University Hospital. This includes 4 large single isolation rooms, a parents lounge and its own external entrance to reduce infection risk for these vulnerable children with cancers.
A planning application for the proposed five-storey Children's Hospital will be submitted to Cork City Council before Christmas. After years of waiting, sick children and their parents and the staff at CUH and MUH all hope to see the project start in earnest within the next six to 12 months.
“It has been a frustratingly slow process for all concerned, with the project group for this build meeting for more than ten years but without the required state capital funding to allow for progression of this vital Children’s Hospital in Cork” said Dr Mullane. “For the children and their parents, however, we hope it will have been worth the wait.”
The new Children's Hospital at CUH will also cater for more ambulatory care, in line with the national strategy to deliver more care closer to home and avoiding hospital admission whenever possible.
The new five-storey building will include in-patient wards on the top three floors, giving admitted children more access to light and outdoor courtyard space. Four children’s operating theatres will be on the ground floor, equipped with child-friendly MRI and other x-ray equipment.
s the wait continues, of course, the project costs are also rising. Driven up by inflation and other factors, the Government-approved initial €60m (which did not include children's operating theatres or MRI) estimated total cost may now have risen to closer to €80m.
While the State funding will cover most, but probably not all, of the capital building costs, CUH also needs public support to fully equip the hospital to make it the best facility it can be for the children of the region
The four paediatric theatres will cost €250,000 each to fit out. MRI machines can cost up to €1.5M.
The 'Buy A Brick' campaign led by CUH Charity, the hospital's fundraising arm, is inviting members of the public to donate €50 per brick to help ensure delivery of the new Children's Hospital.
Dr Dave Mullane, clinical lead in Paediatrics at CUH. Picture: Dan Linehan
“We need national funding,” said Dr Mullane. “We have been promised funding to cover the capital costs, but we don't want to find ourselves in a position that we are granted planning permission, but we have no funds to equip the new hospital properly.
“This hospital will benefit children from all over the south of Ireland. Currently children attend CUH Children’s Unit from Cork, Kerry, Waterford, South Limerick, Tipperary and surrounding counties.. For the children and their parents, we want the hospital to be finished to the highest of standards.”
For parents, currently trying to sleep in chairs beside their child’s bed, one of the biggest gains will be dedicated fit for purpose parent sleeping facilities in their child’s room.
For in-patient children, currently residing in unsuitable wards originally designed for adults, the gains will be far greater.
“The new Children’s Hospital at CUH will deliver modern state of the art facilities for children in Cork and surrounding counties,” said Dr Mullane. “This includes single in-patient en-suite rooms with disability access and space for parents to stay with their children, 4 paediatric operating theatres and a 6-bed paediatric assessment unit for rapid review of GP referrals, a new school and new space for paediatric health and social care professionals (physio, OT, speech and language therapy, dietician, psychology). CUH is the largest regional centre for children outside of Dublin and this new development will allow us to continue to deliver the vast majority of paediatric care close to home in the modern facility that our patients deserve.”
ith children currently being treated in cramped wards with few isolation rooms, paediatric staff at CUH are currently managing a surge in common childhood respiratory viruses including RSV. Numbers are expected to rise further with the upcoming flu season this winter.
The vast majority of these viruses are not Covid but every admission has to be treated as if it were Covid initially.
Many two and three-year-olds are experiencing these viruses for the first time as rates were low last winter as a result of Covid public health measures.
The hospital is already seeing a significant rise in the number of respiratory viruses causing bronchiolitis and other chest infections in young children. Many of their children require oxygen and other respiratory supports to overcome their illness.
The HSE is encouraging parents of all children aged 2 to 17 years to avail of a free nasal spray flu vaccine, available from their GP or pharmacy. Flu vaccine injections are advised for those aged 6 months to 2yrs old and at risk of complications from flu.
Marie Watson, Clinical nurse manager at CUH's children's unit. Picture: Dan Linehan
Clinical nurse manager at CUH's children's unit, Marie Watson, says the hospital's nursing staff are eagerly following every update on plans for the new Children's Hospital.
“We just can't wait for the new Children's Hospital,” said Marie. “It is what the children of the region deserve. We deliver the highest quality of care, but the new facilities will give the children the space and the appropriate environment they need to recover in.
"Central to our work ethic is that every child matters.
"During our training, we are taught to be advocates and voices for children and always embedded in our care is the importance of the environment we provide that care in. The new build will optimise the care we will deliver. One significant benefit of the new hospital will be that parents of seriously ill children may not always have to have the added trouble and expense of going to a Dublin hospital. The new facility will be a better experience all round, helping to reduce the stress from hospital visits for families across all grades of illness.
Marie Watson said the purpose-built facility will not only help the staff in their care delivery but it will make hospital visits a far better experience for children and parents.
"At CUH, we're right up there in terms of research, nursing care and medical care. The only thing we're lacking are the facilities to deliver it. That's very frustrating. We have children who are here short term and also long term. We'd like to be able to give then some degree of normality. Play is a huge part of their recovery."
“We are currently caring for children in a cramped, hot environment, a small space that was originally designed for adults. Little people love to roam, but they can't do that in the present environment.”
Dr Rory O’Brien, consultant in emergency medicine at CUH. Picture: Dan Linehan
As well as looking forward to the new Children’s Hospital, staff at Cork University Hospital are delighted that children in the south of Ireland can also soon expect to be treated in a dedicated new Children’s Emergency Department within CUH. Dr Rory O’Brien, consultant in emergency medicine at CUH, said: “These are two separate projects which are both very important for the delivery of care to young patients. The new Children’s ED will be far better for children, a more appropriate space for their care than the current situation of being in the same ED with adult patients.
“There will be dedicated facilities, more dedicated children’s ED services and a play area. It is all about having the appropriate space for children’s physical and mental care and wellbeing.”
Work on the new Children’s ED at CUH is expected to begin early in the New Year.
This report on Children's Healthcare at Cork University Hospital is part of a week-long series of articles to put a spotlight on the delivery of paediatric services at the hospital. The Irish Examiner also distributed Cork University Hospital's information booklet focused on its 'Buy A Brick' fundraising campaign. Entitled 'The Big Little Hospital', the booklet encourages members of the public to support the development of the proposed new Children's Hospital at CUH. It features contributions from CUH paediatric service teams spread across a range of departments, working to deliver healthcare services to children right across Munster. It also features profile stories from children who have received care and treatment at CUH.
This CUH fundraising campaign is supported by Roche Diagnostics. Leonard Marshall, head of healthcare development at Roche Diagnostics, said: “At Roche, our innovative diagnostic solutions are transforming the future of care. Partnerships and collaborations are at the core of everything we do at Roche and with CUH we are working to highlight the positive impact of enhanced Pediatric services can offer children and their families whilst also working with healthcare professionals across primary and secondary care in the region to embed innovative solutions that offer early access to diagnostics. Increased access to diagnostics will ultimately enable a more effective use of the hospital services and improve the quality of service overall for Irish patients.”
The Buy a Brick campaign is your opportunity to have your name, or the name of a loved one commemorated in the new Children’s Hospital in Cork. This will make a great gift for a friend or family member to mark a birthday, anniversary or any other special occasion. Celebrate your colleagues or staff and use this as a thank you. It is a beautiful commemoration to a loved one who has passed. Maybe it can celebrate a child who has received treatment in CUH. It really is a gift for all occasions.
How to Buy A Brick
You can complete the 'Buy A Brick' donation form HERE.
You can nominate yourself or a friend and that name will be displayed on a wall in the new Children's Hospital.
When the hospital is built, you can see all the names in person.
You will receive a card in the post which you can keep or gift to someone else.