PLANS for the South Docks were officially lodged this month and include a 122,000 square foot rehabilitation hospital which would include 130 individual patient rooms and a comprehensive therapy and rehabilitative infrastructure.
The hospital will be run by the French multinational OrpeaGroup, which currently offers a range of care and services through a network of nursing homes, follow-up care and rehabilitation clinics, mental health clinics, senior residences and home help services in 22 locations globally.
The company operates 24 nursing homes in Ireland through Orpea Care Ireland (the largest owner of private nursing homes in the State) and is looking to expand on this and to venture into rehabilitation and mental health clinics here.
Speaking to The Echo, Neal McGroarty, CEO of Orpea Ireland, said that while the company doesn’t currently have an active presence in Cork this is something it is looking to change.
“At the minute, we have 24 elderly care nursing homes in Ireland. We don’t have a presence in Cork and that’s an area that we’re actively pursuing,” he said.
The group’s plans for the South Docks are its first for a rehabilitation facility in Ireland.
“Orpea has 250 of these types of clinics around Europe, which are either a rehabilitation or mental health [facility], so for us, developing a plan for Orpea when they entered into Ireland, was that we would do at least three rehabilitation clinics.
“We’ve been working with Brian O’Callaghan for probably over a year now on that site [the South Docks], designing the building and coming up with a finalised structure of what it would be like,” Mr McGroarty said.
“It’s been an exciting project to get involved in and obviously we don’t have a presence in Cork. That’s one of the other reasons it’s important for us. We’re actively pursuing other opportunities in Cork,” he said.
The overall South Docks project is at the planning stage.
If approved, it is anticipated that the hospital would provide dedicated stroke, acquired brain injury and general neurological rehabilitation, among other services, with 130 inpatient rooms as well as a dedicated outpatients’ day hospital.
“The idea is to create effectively a pathway to health post-acute care,” said Mr McGroarty.
“Working closely with local acute hospitals is very important and creating a treatment pathway from acute centres into rehabilitation centers is important for us,” he said.
“The real scenario that Orpea provides is this pathway out of an acute setting to free up beds.”
Discussions are underway with a number of stakeholders in relation to the delivery of the service, and it is anticipated that the facility would provide a mix of public and private services.
“We see there is a need for geriatric and orthopaedic rehabilitation in Cork. We feel there is capacity for it and there’s a need to deliver that service in the area,” said Mr McGroarty.
“It’s [the new hospital] about creating a bespoke setting in Cork for geriatric, neurological, orthopaedic and long-term rehab.”
Facilities at the new hospital would include a gymnasium/ an occupational therapy suite and a hydrotherapy pool, full restaurant and adjoining café services.
The design of the building was very heavily influenced by Emmanuel Masson, Orpea’s executive vice president of expansion and network development.
“His expertise on the design, the layout, the structures, the size of the rooms, the distance and the types of rehab that would be provided are very influenced by expertise in Paris,” said Mr McGroarty.
Among the planned design features for the new hospital is that each room will have a river view which, Mr Masson said, “will underpin the positive healing environment we seek to create in each of our facilities”.
“We all know that unfortunately in healthcare a lot of people spend most of the time in their rooms, so it is important to get as much social interaction as they can and that’s what we want to do,” Mr McGroarty said.
Once operational, it is anticipated that the hospital could create about 200 full-time equivalent roles including consultants, doctors, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, nurses, and others.
Recruitment is not something which Mr McGroarty says they are concerned about.
“We feel that the Orpea network can bring those staff to that area if they’re not there.”
Mr McGroarty said the opportunity to establish a rehabilitation hospital at the South Docks is an exciting project and one that meant they moved quicker than they might have otherwise.
“From Orpea’s point of view, we want to be in premium locations, particularly in cities and, obviously, Cork is an area that we’ve spent a lot of time in over the last year so it’s great to get a project and get it progressing,” he said.
“The facility itself is a three-year project. I think there’s a huge amount of support from people in Cork for the project,” he said.
Orpea’s long-term plan is to open similar facilities elsewhere in Ireland in addition to mental health clinics.
“We’ve been approached all around the country for different sites, for health care opportunities,” said Mr McGroarty.
The company, which already operates 24 nursing homes with more than 2,200 beds in Ireland, is also actively expanding its nursing home network.
Mr McGroarty says that a number of greenfield sites for new facilities are at different phases of development. These nursing homes, once developed, will typically have about 100 to 120 beds. It is also looking at developing more facilities, including in Cork.
“We have a number of people that have approached us with opportunities. What we are trying to do at the minute is understand from more people that are on the ground, what is the right location. What’s easiest from a staff point of view, for residents.
“We’re very selective in what we like to look at, but we would hope by the beginning of next year, definitely by April/May, we would have at least one greenfield site going in for planning permission in Cork [for a nursing home facility].”