Tallaght Hospital opens its doors to 115 patients


After 17 years planning it all began at 7 a.m. yesterday with an ecumenical service in the chapel. From then it was non-stop action as Tallaght Hospital finally opened its doors to patients. Planning for the £140 million hospital, the largest health-care project in the State, began in 1981.

The 115 patients, transferred by ambulances with Garda escorts, were greeted at the entrance by staff with a single rose for each of them. The first patient to arrive was Mr Stephen Sinclair, who by coincidence is a porter at the Meath Hospital. Children, adults and the elderly will be cared for at the hospital which has 513 beds.

Patients continued to arrive throughout the day in wheelchairs or on stretchers. In the foyer, patients could hear the sound of fountains as they were transferred to their wards.

Intensive and cardiac care patients were moved in hightech ambulances. Once patients entered the new hospital, staff checked their wrist tags to see which ward they were assigned to and that they had their charts.

During last week, more than 170,000 patient records and almost 500,000 X-ray files were transferred to Tallaght. More than 1,600 staff from the Adelaide, Meath and National Children's Hospitals have moved to Tallaght.

"Today is the culmination of enormous hard work by a lot of people," said Dr David McCutcheon, chief executive of the hospital, who has been working almost round the clock in the run-up to opening day.

"It is the start of a new era in medical care in Ireland. We have some of the latest technology and the best medical expertise in the world in a building that will be second to none. Today we look forward to caring for people in this hospital and to planning for the future."

There was an air of calm efficiency in the hospital yesterday, and those involved in the move seemed almost bemused that the whole thing had gone so smoothly. They believe they have proved the detractors wrong, yet the "detractors" say things would not have gone as smoothly if they had not highlighted the problems in recent months.

Ms Rosemary French, chairwoman of the board of management, said yesterday was "the start of a unique venture in patient-care in Ireland - a wonderful building, fantastic staff and the opportunity to care for all within an inclusive framework guaranteed in our charter".

Road signs giving directions to the hospital have not yet been erected, which is bound to cause confusion for people unfamiliar with the area. It is believed that South Dublin County Council will erect signs today.

Inside the hospital, many patients lay in beds looking out at the Dublin Mountains. There are almost 1,000 windows in the building. Some patients took advantage of the sunny weather to explore some of the 17 courtyard gardens throughout the complex. The 76-bed private unit is not due to be completed until next summer.

A logistics company was appointed by the management to organise the transfer, and fleets of trucks have been going from the city-centre hospitals to Tallaght.

There were few visitors yesterday as the hospital management requested people to give them time to get sorted out. However, in recent months 11,000 people from all over the country have taken conducted tours of the hospital. Management has asked people who would still like to visit to realise that it is now a working hospital.

The official opening of the hospital is expected to take place in the autumn. The Minister for Health, Mr Cowen, is expected to visit during the week to see how patients and staff are settling in.