A ‘shot in the arm’ for paediatrics in Cork: Calls for fast-tracking of CUH development

The planning application for the final phases of the major development is yet to be submitted, according to the HSE.
A ‘shot in the arm’ for paediatrics in Cork: Calls for fast-tracking of CUH development

“There are over 8,000 children on waiting lists in hospitals in Cork.”

Calls have been made for major developments in Cork University Hospital’s paediatric department to be fast-tracked to provide a “shot in the arm” for paediatric care in the region.

Plans for a major overhaul of the CUH paediatric department, which was built in 1978, were revealed towards the end of last year.

Phase one of the development, which saw the installation of dedicated paediatric outpatient accommodation, including dedicated paediatric cystic fibrosis outpatient accommodation in CUH, has been delivered.

Phase one of the development has been delivered.
Phase one of the development has been delivered.

Phases two and three will see the delivery of 74 replacement beds (50 children and 24 infant beds), four high dependency units, three dedicated paediatric operating theatres, one dedicated paediatric procedure room and associated accommodation, with the aim of catering for both CUH and the Mercy Hospital.

No application submitted 

However, while the plans have been drawn up and funding approved, a planning application for the final phases of major development is yet to be submitted, according to the HSE.

This is despite reports at the beginning of 2021 suggesting that a planning application was expected to be submitted in the early part of this year.

In a recent reply to Cork North Central Sinn Féin TD Thomas Gould, the HSE’s national director for capital and estates, Jim Curran explained that both phase two and three will be delivered together, with the total project cost coming to an estimated cost of around €75m to €85m.

Mr Curran said the project plan and cost-benefit analysis are complete, and the business case for the proposal is expected to be ready for presentation “shortly”.

Given the cost of the project, he added that approval will be required from both the Department of Health and the Department for Public Expenditure and Reform for the project to advance.

Mr Curran concluded that, subject to approval from the DOH and DPER, a planning application is expected to be submitted in Quarter 1 of 2022.

Faster progress needed 

The admission has led to calls for faster progress on the project from those in the field of medicine and politicians.

Cork GP Dr Paul O’Sullivan highlighted the importance of the development, describing it as a “shot in the arm” for paediatrics in the Munster region.

“GPs would have close contact with paeds colleagues and are aware of how stretched and under pressure the service is,” he said.

“This development would have been a shot in the arm for paediatrics in the wider Munster region, and would have offered a quantum leap in the range of services that can be offered, saving children from having to go to Dublin to be treated.

“There is a strong feeling that services located outside the pale may face further delays from the HSE and Department of Health as the problems with projects elsewhere such as the National Children’s Hospital, are ongoing,” he added.

Deputy Gould called on the Government to progress plans for the new children’s department as quickly as possible.

“A response by the HSE to me indicates that planning permission for the new children’s hospital won’t even be lodged until early next year,” he said.

“This is despite reports in January 2020 that the planning application would be lodged within weeks.

Phase one of the development, which saw the installation of dedicated paediatric outpatient accommodation, including dedicated paediatric cystic fibrosis outpatient accommodation in CUH, has been delivered.

“There are over 8,000 children on waiting lists in hospitals in Cork,” he added.

“The new hospital could potentially do 1,200 surgeries a day and substantially clear this backlog in a short period of time.

“The Departments of Health and Public Expenditure and Reform need to sign off on the project before planning permission can be sought,” explained Mr Gould.

“I’m asking them to fastrack this process so we might see a submission for planning before the end of this year.”

The South/South West Hospital Group (SSWHG) was contacted for comment.

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