'There are better facilities in Mountjoy Prison than there are for these children'
James has another three to four years in treatment ahead of him. “There is no point in talking to James about the new children’s hospital. It will come too late for him. He needs the resources now and hopefully the rest of the money will be raised.”
Already cake sales, cycles, quizzes and generous donations have provided €4 million of the €8 million needed to rebuild St John’s cancer ward and St Teresa’s cardiac ward where small babies are cared for in equally unsuitable conditions. In February, phase one of the project will be completed with the second phase due by early summer.
The office of Prof Owen Smith, consultant paediatric haematologist at Crumlin, overlooks the construction site where the new facility is taking shape. He says the project is about “restoring dignity” to the patients and parents who use the cancer and cardiac facilities at the hospital. Over the next five years, while the new children’s hospital is being built at St James’s, about 1,000 children will be diagnosed with cancer at Crumlin and 10,000 admitted to the unit for treatment.
“It’s great that it’s going ahead but we can’t wait five years for the new hospital – these children need to be treated now,” he says. “The facilities are third world and bad third world at that. It’s a failing of our health service, it’s a failing of us as a people.”
In addition to the single en-suite rooms with proper pull-down beds for parents and a play area for children, the new bigger facilities will increase the hospital’s ability to meet the needs nationally for stem cell transplantation and other complex treatments.
“This is a real positive,” says Prof Smith. “Some of these children are still sent away to Manchester and Newcastle for treatment, which is expensive and not ideal for the families.
“We are hoping that when we have the infrastructural resource in place, the HSE will meet us half way in terms of delivering the extra three or four nurses and a transplant physician, which will mean we will be self-sufficient.”
The HSE said it would “discuss and agree service development priorities with the management of the hospital”.
Even with the substandard facilities, outcomes at Crumlin are as good as anywhere in the world. “What is not as good is the experience of patients and their families in terms of the facilities and conditions,” says Prof Smith. “We want to restore dignity to them on their cancer journey. It’s not a pleasant journey but it can be so much better than it is here now.”
To donate to the Fix Crumlin campaign visit fixcrumlin.ieor locall 1890-507508