NI water chairman to lead All-Ireland heart surgery scheme

Scheme will see sugeries from across the island dealt with in Dublin

The soon-to-be appointed Northern Ireland Water chairman Dr Len O'Hagan will lead the implementation of an All-Ireland cardiac treatment centre in Dublin, the Department of Health has said.

Discussions over the establishment of a cross-Border heart unit at Our Lady's Children's Hospital Crumlin commenced last October following the results of an International Working Group report, which indicated that such a move would be necessary so as to provide "safe and effective cardiac care" for children in Ireland.

The collaborative scheme between health authorities north and south will eventually precipitate the closure of a cardiac surgery centre at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children, after the report concluded that its operation is no longer sustainable.

Around 540 children require heart surgery across Ireland each year; 400 from the Republic and 140 from Northern Ireland.


As part of the plans, all surgeries will be centralised in Crumlin, with aftercare treatments and facilities provided in the Royal Hospital in Belfast.

The initiative had faced criticisms from parents in Northern Ireland who were sceptical about the benefits of dismantling the Belfast surgery unit, and unionists who disagreed with the implementation of an All-Ireland treatment model.

Currently the chief executive of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, Dr O'Hagan is a prolific governance figure who is also on the board of directors of Independent News and Media. His chairmanship of Northern Ireland Water is due to commence in April.

He will be joined on the new All-Ireland Network Board by officials and specialists from health services and hospitals in Dublin and Belfast as the full extent of the scheme is rolled out over the course of the next year.

Initially focussing on adolescents, it is hoped the new model will eventually be utilised in the treatment of adult heart conditions.

"It makes so much sense to develop healthcare through north-south co-operation. We should never allow politics or jurisdictional issues get in the way of what is best for patients and their families," said Minister for Health Leo Varadkar.

"This project and the provision of cancer care for the north-west including Donegal at Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry are tangible examples of this. I expect there will be many more examples in the future," he added.

Northern Ireland's Minister of Health Jim Wells said: "I am delighted to confirm my support and approval for the network to be established. This presents a tremendous opportunity to build on the respective strengths of the children's heart centres in Belfast and Dublin."