Most people will be aware there are plans afoot, or have been for some time, to relocate the various childrens hospitals into a central facility, and that a city centre site (the Mater) was chosen by the working group.
Now I had concerns around the site, as being a national facility, somewhere at least on the outer ring of Dublin as opposed to city centre, would seem more accessible to the wider nation. Given transport links are expected to improve but nonetheless the M50 is currently easier to aim for than D1 from most places.
What worried me more though, in the more immediate term, was the provision of childrens’ A&E services at local level in North Kildare, given that the current national childrens’ hospital, at Tallaght, now serves that catchment. In fact Naas hospital will turn children away at A&E and redirect them into Tallaght.
With two juniors of my own, and having had to use the facility there on a few ocassions, I am very familiar with the setup there. I would have to compliment the staff and services there in fact, all my experiences thankfully have been positive, and the Tallaght Childrens hospital and provides a very high level of care.
However whilst I had full confidence in the staff and facilities at the unit, I had a major concern on the future situation if and when the childrens’ hospital centralises into the city centre location as proposed.
I was one of the few fans of the Hanley report, all those years ago, and I understand we cannot have a hospital at every crossroads. However I do think we must have an emergency unit within every constituency or within striking distance. The proposed move would add at least an hour to the journey in, and would be a real worry especially in emergency circumstances. So I raised these points with the Minister, and explained North Kildare residents deep dependence on childrens’ services as currently provided at Tallaght Hospital.
I put a question to the Minister for Health, Mary Harney TD, and a related one to the Minister for Children (Barry Andrews TD). The answer I have received states that, while the current plan remains for a centralisation of services at the Mater site, a new ambulatory care programme will be rolled out around the country which will provide acute services at regional locations. Tallaght Hospital, according to the Minister, will be the first such centre of ambulatory excellence serving the new national paedriatic hospital, and this should ensure those vital A&E services are maintained at that location.
I think this is absolutely key for the Naas area and I will stay close to this one all the way through.