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“Working with kids highlights just how invaluable state-of-the-art services and equipment can be" - Cork consultant paediatrician highlights work of CUH Children's Unit 

Working with ill children who may be combating serious illnesses can be one of the most challenging, but rewarding, jobs out there, according to a consultant paediatrician at Cork University Hospital.

Speaking to The Echo, Dr David Mullane said that he and his colleagues work with ill children on a daily basis in a bid to help them fight and beat illnesses.

He said the daily struggles can lead to disappointment and difficulties but also wins and positive outcomes.

Consultant paediatrician David Mullane in the children's ward at the Cork University Hospital. Picture Dan Linehan
Consultant paediatrician David Mullane in the children's ward at the Cork University Hospital. Picture Dan Linehan

Dr Mullane said the work that is carried out in paediatric services in CUH can be aided by state-of-the-art technology and up to date facilities, and that the CUH charity board along with staff members and hospital management are keen to deliver these resources.

“It can be tough work,” he admitted.

“I’ve been working in paediatrics now for about 20 years.

“I have three kids of my own and it is hard, it’s not the easiest at times, but thankfully the vast majority of kids who come in do get better,” he added.

“But there are some cases where patients have chronic, difficult conditions and that is hard.

“Some have chronic conditions which are only going to get worse, for others there is no treatment, and sometimes there’s nothing anyone can do.

“So it can be hard and emotionally draining for the families obviously, and the staff as well as we’re trying to support them through it.

“It’s also extremely rewarding as well - going on ward runs and seeing kids smiling at you and saying thanks.

“There have also been fantastic medical developments in recent years - in cystic fibrosis, for example - so even working in that field is getting better because we’re seeing better outcomes.

“Working with kids on a daily basis really highlights just how invaluable state-of-the-art services and equipment, as well as dedicated staff, can be.” 

Dr Mullane said the staff are certainly dedicated and are keen to get the best equipment and resources in place to support them in their work.

“If we’re working in nice, up-to-date facilities where staff feel resourced, children and their families feel comfortable, that’s better for everyone.

“If we can provide a place for parents to lie down near their child rather than having them try to sleep on a plastic chair, if we can make their hospital stay in any way less pleasant than hospital stays can be, then it is the right thing to do.

“All this is planned for the new children’s hospital unit here in CUH.” 

It was recently revealed that building works on the long awaited children’s hospital unit at Cork University Hospital are expected to commence next year.

The new block is expected to house 80 beds for child patients, as well as space for operating theatres, and will cost around €40 million.

Funding for the long-awaited new Children’s Hospital at CUH is included in the recent HSE Capital Plan and building works are expected to commence in 2020.

“This new building will be an 80-bed inpatient ward,” said Dr Mullane.

“Six of those beds will be high dependency unit for children who are very unwell and need close observation.

“All of the rooms will be single en-suite rooms with space for parents to sleep,” he added.

“There will also be play areas and school rooms included as well.

“We already have children’s clinics in the Seahorse Day unit and that’s going to be a big part of the services here as well.

New services in the clinic include paediatric dermatology, a paediatric burns unit, diabetes, disability and neurology.

“We’re trying to bring any children coming into the hospital into that area because it’s very child-friendly and makes things easier for them.

“There is a longer term plan to have a bigger, separate paediatric ED area beside the adult area but that’s a long term plan and something to look at further down the line.” 

As well as improving healthcare for children across Cork and the south of Ireland, Dr Mullane explained that the new children’s unit would free up the two wards that the children’s services are currently occupying, affording the hospital even greater capacity for adult patients.

While the design has been drawn up and approved by the South/South West Hospital Group, it still has to go through planning and tender stages.

“We have been lacking proper inpatient facilities here for children for some time and that’s one of the main things we’re seeking to address with this new build,” said Dr Mullane.

“I remember when I came back 10 years ago and seeing the older children’s wards we were in at the time.

“They were the exact same as they had been 20 or 30 years before that when I was in there with my younger brother who had leukemia at the time but is fine now.

“It hadn’t changed in that time apart maybe from a lick of paint,” he added.

“We have moved on from that in terms of facilities but now it’s important that we keep moving forward and striving for better.

“We moved onto temporary space five years ago, so the next step now is to get that permanent location and it is in the plans so we just need to make sure it happens now.” Dr Mullane admitted that it has been frustrating at times in recent years, seeing funding be granted for other projects but noth the much needed children’s unit at CUH.

“There has been a bit of frustration trying to get this project going.

“So it is fantastic so see some progress - we’re hopeful that building works can commence next year.

“The new block will have a hugely positive impact on paediatric services here in Cork for children here and across the south of Ireland,” he added.

“We had around 30,000 children come into the hospital last year across our wards, clinics and emergency department.

“Of those children, less than two percent needed to be transferred to Dublin so the vast majority of children coming through CUH can be managed here which is great.

“That’s not to say we don’t need the National Paediatrics Hospital (NPH) - we do for a small number of cases - but the vast majority of children coming in here every day have everything done here.

“So it’ll be great to be open our own paediatric hospital on the grounds of CUH with capacity for 80 beds and room to introduce operating theatres in the future.

“When it is built, the children’s department in the Mercy University Hospital, which includes a Leukemia unit, will also move up here to CUH.

“The new block will mean that all paediatric services will be available in one location in the city and that’s the way it should be.” As well as adding new services to the hospital, Dr Mullane explained staff are working hard to improve existing ones by providing new equipment and resources.

“There’s a charity board and members of that board and staff have done an awful lot over the years to raise money for children’s services here in the hospital,” he said.

“So one of the ideas put forward by Gillian Kelleher, a staff officer here, was to get a concert going.

“The idea behind this was to have a paediatric focussed event to raise money for some of the equipment we need,” he added.

Dr David Mullane, Gillian Kelleher, Dr Olivia O’Mahony and Marie Watson, Head of Nursing, CUH Children’s Unit join CUH staff and dancers in 2017 at the handover of €85,268 to CUH Charity to support Phase II of the new Children’s Unit in CUH, All funds were raised from 'Strictly CUH', a major fundraising Dance Stravaganza at Cork Opera House.Images By Gerard McCarthy.
Dr David Mullane, Gillian Kelleher, Dr Olivia O’Mahony and Marie Watson, Head of Nursing, CUH Children’s Unit join CUH staff and dancers in 2017 at the handover of €85,268 to CUH Charity to support Phase II of the new Children’s Unit in CUH, All funds were raised from 'Strictly CUH', a major fundraising Dance Stravaganza at Cork Opera House.
Images By Gerard McCarthy.

“We’re also trying to make people aware of the vast amount of services we have for children here in Cork and to highlight the importance of introducing a children’s hospital here.” The Children's Unit at Cork University Hospital is hosting a fundraiser next month to raise funds for vital new equipment, refurbishing the children's emergency department, and the temporary children's ward.

The benefit concert will take place on Saturday, November 16 at Cork City Hall and will feature Irish band Walking on Cars with more artists expected to perform on the night.

The event will be attended by sports stars and dignitaries alike, including athlete Derval O’Rourke and comic book artist Will Sliney.

The charity is hoping to raise funds for an EEG machine, used to diagnose seizures and epilepsy, as well as an ECHO machine which is used to diagnose congenital heart disease in children.

Any funds raised on the night will also go towards the refurbishment of the existing Children’s Wards and the Paediatric Emergency Department, which will be slightly extended to include six beds.

“We’ve run events in the past and the people of Cork have been very generous and supportive,” added Dr Mullane.

“We’re hoping that will continue and we’re hoping to see a great crowd at next month’s event.”