New children’s urgent-care centre will only open 8am to 6pm on week days

Shortage of consultants means centre at Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown will only initially open in daytime hours

The Irish Hospital Consultants Association  and the Irish Medical Organisation have said there are  about 500 hospital consultant posts  vacant around the county. Photograph: Getty Images

The Irish Hospital Consultants Association and the Irish Medical Organisation have said there are about 500 hospital consultant posts vacant around the county. Photograph: Getty Images

 

A shortage of medical consultants means that a new paediatric out-patient and urgent-care centre at Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown, Dublin, will open later this month only during daytime hours.

The Connolly Hospital services, which are essentially the first elements of the new national children’s hospital project, will initially only open from 8am to 6pm from Monday to Friday.

Children’s Health Ireland (CHI), the group that oversees paediatric hospital services, said on Friday night that the new centre would open on a phased basis from July 31st because of “temporary vacancies in consultant posts”.

“There are recruitment challenges nationally and internationally in certain specialities such as paediatric radiology and paediatric emergency medicine,” CHI said in a statement.

“While we have been successful in our recruitment campaign for emergency medicine we do have temporary vacancies due to maternity and backfill requirements for paediatric emergency medicine posts.

“CHI acknowledges these, hence opening urgent care on a phased basis, and we are actively working with our radiologists to ensure that radiology support will be in place in time for the opening of the new service on July 31st, 2019.”

The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) and the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) argued on Friday that the inability to recruit sufficient medical specialists to operate the new urgent-care centre to the extent originally envisaged was due to lower pay rates in place for newly-appointed consultants.

Internal risk assessment documents drawn up by CHI in relation to the new centre maintain it had been unable to fill two consultant paediatric radiology positions for the new facility.

Phased opening

CHI said over time the urgent-care centre would move to a seven- day operation from 8am to 8pm, with patients in the centre treated and discharged before midnight.

It said the phased opening would allow it to monitor and review processes, provide on-the-job training of staff, and assess and monitor patient safety.

The IMO said due to the core problem of recruiting consultants, “in this instance both in paediatric emergency medicine and radiology, the services at Connolly can now be offered on a restricted basis only and not in line with what was originally planned”.

The IHCA said it had been originally envisaged that the new facility would operate over 16 hours on a seven-day basis from 8am to midnight. It was very concerned that a risk assessment had flagged 12 separate issues – two considered to be “red” risks and 10 “amber” risks – less than a fortnight before the centre was due to open. It was shocking that CHI would not publish the full risk assessment.

CHI said the assessment was being updated on a weekly basis, and that it “identifies the mitigations to address risks and concerns to safely allow services to open at Connolly”.

“We are using this risk matrix as a guide to work through the issues that need to be addressed to safely open services at Connolly.”

Wait longer

The IMO said: “While this pay discrimination exists we will never have enough consultants to deliver timely care to the population, and that means patients will be denied services and wait longer for care, with all the adverse consequences that entails.”

The IHCA and the IMO have said there are about 500 hospital consultant posts currently vacant around the county.