Opened on November 30, 1978, the hospital is now an integral part of the Cork landscape.
The hospital primarily treats patients from Cork and Kerry while it is also a tertiary referral centre for Munster, serving a population of more than one million people.
CUH is also the largest university teaching hospital in Ireland and is the only Level 1 Trauma centre in the country due to the presence of over 40 different medical and surgical specialities on the campus.
While the anniversary will allow the hospital staff, past and present, to reflect on everything they have achieved in the past 40 years, CUH Chief Executive Tony McNamara said it is also an opportunity to look to the future.
“40 years is a long time, it’s a career for many, many people.
“The anniversary gives us the opportunity to reflect on what has happened here in CUH over the past 40 years and also to think about the future as well,” he added.
“In order to capture what is going on, we’ve commissioned a book written by Alicia St Ledger which is going to record the stories of people who came, some originally from St Finbarr’s, to this hospital and some others who retired only in the recent past.
“It’s an opportunity to document their experiences and to capture some of the stories behind this hospital.”
From humble beginnings as the Cork Regional Hospital, CUH has undergone major transformations in its 40 years.
“The hospital is evolving and will continue to evolve,” said Mr McNamara.
“The aim for the future of the hospital is to continue to develop and evolve the services here.
“It’s the most comprehensive range of services across any hospital in Ireland, with 40 different medical, surgical and support services and over 100 departments in total,” he added.
“There is currently 4,200 staff working in the hospital across many different professions and grades.”
The impact the hospital has had on the region and its people cannot be understated, according to Mr McNamara.
“Every year, the hospital has around half a million interactions with patients, be that outpatients, day cases or Emergency Department attendances,” he said.
“It has had a huge impact on people’s lives in the area that we serve.
“It’s also added huge economic value to the region because the hospital spends over €1 million a day,” he explained.
“We have to account for that so that not only are we giving value for money but also the best care possible to the highest standard.”
This, Mr McNamara explained, would not be possible without the hospital staff.
“We’re very fortunate with the quality of staff we have here across all grades.
“We’re very fortunate also that we’ve been able to recruit really top quality staff while other hospitals might struggle at times,” he said.
“That expertise and the commitment of staff is invaluable when it comes to delivering the level of healthcare people need and deserve,” he added.
“We have 4,200 staff who come from all over Cork city and county and even further afield. I think their commitment is demonstrated on a daily basis, but particularly during the early part of this year when adverse weather meant that many had to undertake hazardous journeys to get here. They stayed in the hospitals or hotels nearby. Their commitment is to serving the sick public and that’s what they have continued to do.”
As well as growing internally in terms of staff and services, the hospital has also significantly developed its physical footprint in the past 40 years.
“On the building side of things, the construction of the cardiac renal centre and the consolidation of these services and developments there were very important for the region,” said Mr McNamara, who added there are more projects in the pipeline.
“The new Radiation Oncology Department will be completed in February and will open in the following months.
“This represents a major step forward,” he said.
“The forthcoming opening of the centre and our partnership with the Christie Cancer Centre in Manchester is groundbreaking.
“It will offer an outstanding service when that opens in 2019 and we’re very excited about that and for the development of cancer services in Cork in the coming years.”
As well as the new Radiation Oncology Centre, CUH has its sights firmly fixed on a new helipad.
With the planning documents submitted, Mr McNamara said it will be a key part of the hospital’s campus.
“The helipad will be a critical part of infrastructure here “The capability of being able to transfer very sick patients rapidly from other hospitals to the trauma centre here is very important,” he added.
“This importance will grow as traffic congestion grows and the need for faster delivery of patients grows.”
While he said there have been many, many highlights for him personally during his time at the hospital, Mr McNamara said that the development of services in the hospital from where they were at when he arrived in 1992 has been a highlight.
“For me personally, to see the hospital grow and develop into being able to deliver the most comprehensive range of services in Ireland is a highlight,” he added.
“I think the opportunity to work with great people has also been wonderful.
“Their commitment and innovation every single day is inspiring.”
CUH was recently designated by the government as a trauma centre, the only one currently in Ireland until the government decides which hospital in Dublin will take on the mantle.
“I think that’s an acknowledgement of the work that the staff here do, of the expertise here and of the critical role this hospital plays now and will play into the future in delivering the highest standard of healthcare,” said Mr McNamara.
As well as preparing for its new role in Irish healthcare, CUH is also looking to the future.
Two new hospitals, earmarked for Cork in the Ireland 2040 plan, will be a welcome addition to the region, according to Mr McNamara.
“Anything that increases bed capacity and frees up capacity here is to be welcomed,” he said.
“The planning of those facilities is going to be incredibly important. What they’re expected to do, how they’ll function and how they’ll interplay with other hospitals and community hospitals and services in the region will be very important,” he added.
“That needs to be defined in coming years as this is a very important development for the region.”
As well as the two new hospitals, a new dedicated Children’s Centre, at a cost of around €40 million, will see the hospital expand its paediatric services.
One of three satellites of the National Children’s Hospital, the centre will include four theatres and improved accommodation for children and families.
“It’s a very important development for children and their families in the region,” said Mr McNamara.
With the hospital gearing up to celebrate 40 years this Friday, this reporter asked Mr McNamara for his vision of CUH in 10 years time, when the hospital will mark its Golden Anniversary.
With a smile, Mr McNamara said:
“I hope that by then the hospital will have taken the opportunity to move on from being a very, very good hospital to being one that is recognised internationally as a medical centre of excellence and is recognised also for its work in research, clinical trials and its relationships with other top hospitals internationally.
“I hope that the children’s department, the next €40 million project here, will be well established here by that time for a number of years and that this will provide children and families with improved services,” he added.
“And that radiation and oncology services will have developed as much as they can and that the work we’re doing with the Christie will make the cancer services here as good as they are at the best hospitals internationally.”