The first facilities of the new national children’s hospital will open within days despite a warning from senior doctors that it will be unsafe, health authorities have insisted.
Children's Health Ireland (CHI), which is overseeing the development of the new hospital, said risks identified at one of its satellite centres, an urgent-care service at Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown, "have reduced due to mitigation actions in recent weeks."
It met doctors’ representative groups on Friday “to share the updated risk assessment and mitigation plan” that it says will allow services at Connolly to open safely on July 31st.
The meeting ended without a definitive outcome and fresh talks are planned for Monday.
In a statement, the CHI said it expects 500 patients will be admitted to the satellite hospital centre during August, with opening hours initially restricted to between 8am and 6pm, from Monday to Friday, because of a shortage of medical consultants.
On Wednesday, nearly 30 of the State's top paediatric consultants warned CHI chief executive Eilish Hardiman in a letter that it will be unsafe to open the new urgent-care service at Connolly on schedule next week.
They called for the opening to be put back until it could be done on a safe basis, arguing the risks were “considerable and cumulatively unacceptable”.
The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), which represents doctors, said on Friday it is worried the urgent care centre faces "insurmountable obstacles" that could prevent its opening next week.
Dr Peadar Gilligan, past president of the IMO and member of its consultant committee, said it has "very serious concerns" and that "the situation is inevitably going to deteriorate as waiting lists lengthen and more patients are denied care."
“We are now just days away from the scheduled opening, yet we have still to see a detailed and up-to-date risk assessment to confirm that the centre is fit to operate – even on the restricted basis that the children’s hospital group has admitted will be necessary,” he said.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) was finding it "impossible" to recruit enough consultants to operate the new services, he said, citing reduced pay scales implemented for consultants appointed since 2012.
The “blame for this crisis lies solely with the Government and their inaction in dealing with what has been a crisis in recruitment for many years”, he said.
“The cost of the children’s hospital has consumed the political system, yet no effort has been made to address how the satellite centres and the hospital are going to be staffed or how care is going to be delivered,” he added.
In a statement, CHI said the urgent care centre at Connolly is "the first, tangible and visible manifestation" of the new National Children's Hospital and patient safety is central to its "pre-opening critical path".
“It is to be expected that risks exist in the pre-opening period however all risks identified by CHI management and by clinicians have reduced due to mitigation actions in recent weeks,” it said.
“There is a scheduled meeting with clinicians this afternoon to share the updated risk assessment and mitigation plan that supports services at Connolly opening safely on July 31st 2019.”
CHI said the new facility would will contribute to “significant reductions” in its more than 5,000-strong waiting list for children to get a general paediatric outpatient appointments.