2014 newsmakers: Mount Carmel Hospital
‘I take my hat off to anyone looking after patients that day’
Some of the staff outside Mount Carmel Hospital. Photograph: David Sleator
On Friday, January 24th, the High Court appointed provisional liquidators to close Mount Carmel, the private hospital in Dublin. The announcement caught its staff unprepared.
“It was a manic day and a nightmare for many people,” says Suzanne Corcoran, a business manager who had worked at the hospital for nine years.
“I came out of a meeting to see staff running around the corridors, visibly upset. After the news had broken on RTÉ, I’d say there were liquidators on site and security on the door of the hospital within 30 minutes.”
Staff struggled to keep hold of equipment and ensure that procedures continued safely. Adults and children who had waited years for an appointment, Corcoran says, had to be told that their cases were heading back into the public health system. Babies could be delivered until the following Wednesday, but, aside from a small number of surgeries, everything else came to a standstill.
“I take my hat off to anyone on the front line who was looking after patients that day,” says Corcoran. “The staff, both in theatre and in the daycare setting, worked under incredibly difficult circumstances.”
When Corcoran set up a Facebook page for the hospital where staff could keep abreast of developments, it attracted an outpouring of public support.
“It was phenomenal,” she says. “In 10 days we had 9,000 ‘likes’ and I don’t know how many comments. People who had been patients or had babies there over the years wanted to say thanks. The staff would say that kept them going – that, and people from the local community dropping in cards.”
Most of Mount Carmel’s 382 staff have since found employment elsewhere in the healthcare sector. In September the HSE purchased the hospital, which it will use as a step-down facility for patients no longer in need of acute hospital care. But Corcoran says it’s hard to shake lingering questions. Could Nama have done better in working out a deal? Could more thought have been put into winding down the hospital?
“We had a reunion in November, and it still felt quite raw for some people,” she says. “Looking back, we tried to fight our case, and there was a lot of media attention. But I think it was a done deal by that point, which is a shame, because you don’t get many hospitals like that. It will be hugely missed.”