The Government has designated the Mater hospital in Dublin and Cork University Hospital as the two major centres for the provision of trauma care in the State.
The Cabinet also decided that St Vincent's University Hospital and Tallaght University Hospital in Dublin will serve as trauma centres for patients with less serious conditions.
Overall, the plan will see the country divided into two trauma networks for dealing with patients who, for example, have experienced car accidents, head injuries or broken limbs.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said the major trauma centres would provide all major relevant specialist services, leading to better outcomes for severely injured patients.
He said the new initiative represented “a major reform, not a marginal change at the edges of our health system. This is a big systemic improvement that’s going to do a huge amount of good.
“Major trauma involves complex injuries that have the potential to be life-changing or life-ending ,” he said.
"On average, about 1,600 patients in Ireland suffer major trauma injuries each year. Studies have consistently shown that severely injured patients are 15-20 per cent less likely to die if admitted to a major trauma centre than if admitted to other hospitals. Concentrating major trauma cases in high volume centres provides the necessary critical mass, clinical throughput, specialised infrastructure and specialist skills under one roof, leading to better outcomes for patients with major trauma."
The HSE said the new major centres at the Mater and Cork University Hospital centres would “provide the highest level of specialist trauma care to the most severely injured patients in the one hospital”.
“At present, no single Dublin hospital has all the acute specialties required in a major trauma centre with several key trauma specialties spread across Dublin in different hospitals. ”
The Government’s overall strategy in this area recommended that there should be two trauma networks, one for the south and another, known as the central network, covering the rest of the country.
Each network would have one major trauma centre, one in Dublin and one in Cork.
The two major centres would be linked to several trauma units in other hospitals in their areas. The strategy proposed that in Dublin there should be a maximum of two other trauma facilities in addition to the major centre.
The overall plan was approved by the then government in February 2018. Since then work has been under way in the HSE and the Department of Health including the involvement of an independent assessment group to determine the location of the major centre and the two trauma units in Dublin.
It was always expected that the major centre for the south would be based at Cork University Hospital.
Mr Donnelly said on Tuesday that seriously injured trauma patients “will now be treated by the right clinicians, in the right hospitals, as quickly as possible, and will receive much more rapid care from specialist trauma teams who can identify life-threatening injuries much quicker and perform life-saving operations earlier”.
“ In treating trauma of a lesser severity, the two trauma units in Dublin will be essential to ensuring that the major trauma centre is capable of dealing with major trauma when it arrives.”
The Department of Health said the overall trauma plan would be implemented in three phases.
“Funding of €5.7 million has been provided in Budget 2021 to allow for the commencement of Phase 1 of the development of the major trauma centre for the central trauma network. This funding will enable the establishment of a number of vital services at the major trauma centre. Once established, it is planned that the centre will formally commence services early in 2022.”
Former minister for health Simon Harris told the then Cabinet in February 2018 that the overall trauma plan could cost €57 million in additional staffing costs while the capital costs for the system could be some €28 million.