North’s child cardiac cases to be treated in Dublin

Reilly calls for greater North-South co-operation on health

Minister for Health James Reilly:  “I am quite happy that we will have a capacity here in Dublin to look after children from the North of Ireland.”

Minister for Health James Reilly: “I am quite happy that we will have a capacity here in Dublin to look after children from the North of Ireland.”

Fri, Apr 26, 2013, 05:00


Minister for Health James Reilly has said he will “facilitate in every way” a proposed move of congenital heart surgery for children in Northern Ireland from Belfast to Dublin.

Northern Ireland’s health authorities yesterday recommended that operations for children with birth defects should be carried out in Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin in Dublin using enhanced north-south transport links.


Awaiting approval
The long-awaited decision, which must first be approved by Stormont Health Minister Edwin Poots, arises from a rationalisation of health services in the UK.

Centres must perform a minimum of 400 children’s surgical procedures each year to maintain skills, a report said, but Belfast falls short of that number and the volume is decreasing.

An earlier review found that, while safe, undertaking heart surgery at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children was no longer sustainable because of the small population served and lower than recommended activity level of doctors.

The North’s Health and Social Care Board, which commissions services, examined options for providing the relatively rare operations, including using hospitals in England as well as Crumlin. Options ruled out included splitting surgery between Belfast and Dublin or involving hospitals in Britain. Its decision has been criticised by parents of sick children in the North, who say that the journey to Dublin might be too arduous for some young patients. One parent asked board members: “Is it the Health Minister or the commissioners who will take responsibility when a child dies?”

Dr Reilly told the BBC yesterday: “I am quite happy that we will have a capacity here in Dublin to look after children from the North of Ireland.”


Further co-operation
He expressed the hope that the decision would presage further co-operation between North and South in areas such as cancer care, community services, air ambulance services and nursing units. Patients in the northeast would benefit greatly from greater co-operation between the four hospital groups in the region, he said.

In recent years, Crumlin Hospital has been treating over 20 paediatric cardiac surgery cases a year from Northern Ireland, according to the Department of Health.

“However, any detailed response to the specific issues raised is a matter for the Northern Ireland authorities,” a spokeswoman said.

Mr Poots said he would hold further discussions with counterparts in the Republic.