Speech by Mr Micheál Martin TD, Minister for Health and Children, at the official opening of the new Operating Theatres and Day Unit at Our Lady´s Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin

I would like to thank Mr Frank Feely, the Committee of Management and the staff of Our Lady´s Hospital for inviting me here today to formally open the new Operating Theatre Department.

I would also like to take this opportunity to formally welcome the hospital´s new Chief Executive, Gerry O´Dwyer, and to wish him well in his new post.

This major capital development has been a long time coming to fruition but I think you´ll agree that it has been worth waiting for. This development, the total capital cost of which was almost €30m, comprises seven new state-of-the-art theatres which replace theatres which have been in use since 1956. The theatres are bright, modern, highly equipped and designed to the highest standards. They provide attractive, child-friendly surroundings, making use as they do of natural light, artworks, landscaped courtyards, and views to the outside. The development also comprises a new Day Surgical Unit and a new Sterile Services Department which is also equipped to an extremely high standard.

I was delighted recently to be able to provide the additional revenue funding required to commission the five replacement theatres and the CSSD. The provision of new theatres marks the beginning of a series of exciting new developments at Our Lady´s Hospital. The next developments to come on-stream are the new MRI facility and new interim facilities for the Haematology/Oncology Departments. Both of these projects have been approved by my Department and are being progressed as a priority. It has also been recognised that urgent priority needs to be given to the upgrade and development of the Cardiac Services Department. A draft design brief has been prepared to address the most urgent needs of this Department. The brief describes an interim solution which is intended to be capable of being put in place in a relatively short time-frame. I understand that a site study has now been commissioned to identify and assess the options available for the location of these interim Cardiology Department facilities.

In relation to the longer term development of Our Lady´s, you will be aware that I approved the establishment of a project team to plan the overall redevelopment of the hospital. I understand that the Design Team which has been working on the Outline Development Control Plan is on target to deliver the Plan to the Project Team by September this year.

I would like at this stage to acknowledge the hard work of the Project Team, which comprises representatives of the ERHA, the Department of Health and Children, and the hospital. I also wish to acknowledge the significant amount of work put in by all the staff of the hospital in assisting both the Project Team and the Design Teams to gather the information necessary for the preparation of the various briefs.

I know from meetings with Parents´ groups and from informal contact with other interested parties that there is a level of concern with the pace at which the overall redevelopment of the hospital is proceeding. While this concern is to some degree understandable, I think it must be recognised by all that such a large, complex and significant project requires exceptionally careful management and planning in order to ensure that the end result is everything we would wish it to be.

In parallel with the ongoing work of the Project Team, I am very conscious of the need to continue to invest in the maintenance of the existing facilities in advance of the overall re-development programme. In this regard I am delighted to announce today the provision of an additional capital grant of €1.9m which will enable the hospital to continue to improve conditions. I understand that the hospital intends to use this funding to improve security at the hospital, as well as upgrading the electrical facilities on some of the wards, and carrying out some much-needed refurbishment.

Our Lady´s Hospital is the national centre for paediatric cardiac surgery. Since 2000, great strides have been made by the hospital, in association with the ERHA, in reducing the waiting lists for children requiring cardiac surgery. One of the initiatives utilised to achieve this objective has been the referral of children abroad for treatment. This initiative has proved to be very successful, and I understand it is to be repeated this year. Obviously it does not provide a complete solution, not least because many of the children on the waiting list are not fit to undertake journeys abroad. In addition, the demand for paediatric cardiac services continues to increase for a number of reasons, including the fact that medical expertise now allows more complex surgery to be undertaken.

One of the key objectives in developing two additional theatres at Our Lady’s Hospital is to increase the number of cardiac surgery operations that are carried out here in Our Lady’s. Pending the full commissioning of these theatres, the hospital has developed a proposal to utilise some of the additional capacity now available to facilitate an additional weekly cardiac surgery list. The hospital’s proposal, which I understand has been developed in consultation with the relevant staff, will allow a minimum of two additional cases per week to be performed. The ERHA has supported this proposal and I am delighted to be able to announce that my Department will be providing the additional funding of approximately €1m in the current year necessary to implement the proposal. I hope that this initiative, in conjunction with the referral abroad of suitable patients, will help to maintain the cardiac surgery waiting list at a manageable level.

It now just remains for me to thank you all again for inviting me here today and to wish you all the very best for the future.