Children’s Health Ireland currently provides paediatric services in Crumlin, Temple Street, Tallaght, and Blanchardstown at Connolly Hospital. The highest number of children and young people is in the eastern region of Ireland where the rollout of the National Model of Care for Paediatrics is well advanced.
New facilities for outpatient and urgent/emergency care in Blanchardstown and Tallaght opened in 2019 and 2021 providing local and convenient paediatric services northwest and southwest of Dublin. Services in both new facilities will continue when the new children’s hospital opens.
Our new children’s hospital building is now over 70 per cent complete. Taoiseach Micheál Martin TD and Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly TD, visited the new children’s hospital in November 2022. Together with children who attended Children’s Health Ireland services, they planted the first of 400 trees destined for the four acres of gardens and open spaces planned within the 12-acre grounds of the new children’s hospital.
They visited the most progressed areas in the building – including one of the hospital’s 22 operating theatres, the 60-bed critical care unit, and an ensuite inpatient room. The new hospital will provide all services for the sickest children in the State, and some all-island services, as well as supporting local paediatric services currently provided at Crumlin and Temple Street and the inpatient and day care paediatric services at Tallaght.
New model of care
Ambitious transformation of healthcare requires long-term planning and implementation. The health policy and plan for paediatrics is based on the 2016 National Model of Care for Paediatric Healthcare Services. This model of care stipulates having an integrated network of paediatric services based on two core principles. The first is that children and young people should be treated as close to their home as is clinically appropriate. The second is that national and highly specialist acute services are consolidated in one children’s hospital co-located with a large academic adult hospital. The development of paediatric services in regional hospitals is an integral part of this model of care.
When looking at services in our hospitals in Children’s Health Ireland, we have many excellent services, while others require continued development especially when it comes to providing timely access to patients. It is important to acknowledge achievements in times of change when things are moving quickly. We want to share some recent milestones in Children’s Health Ireland that have enabled us to continue our vision, mission and values and strive to achieve our strategic objectives.
Children’s Health First
The new Paediatric outpatient and emergency care unit (ECU) at Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) at Tallaght opened in November 2021. This service recorded 34,994 Emergency Care Unit attendances and 15,000 plus outpatient appointments in 12 months. These figures are a tribute to the efforts of many staff to provide care in these new facilities, providing paediatric care and treatment for local children, young people, and their families.
Significant progress has been made this year to increase the number of spinal surgeries undertaken, up by 152 (54 per cent) on the same period last year. Long waiting times have also been reduced with 32 per cent fewer children waiting greater than 12 months and 24 per cent less waiting greater than four months for inpatient care. An increase in OPD referrals and new additions to the waiting list of 30 per cent means that the impact of this increased activity is not visible when looking at total patients waiting. Capacity projects (theatres, beds, MRIs) coming on stream in early 2023 will continue to improve access to our orthopaedic service. CHI also continued to work with our partners in the National Orthopaedic Hospital Cappagh to extend services provided to our patients with non-complex needs on orthopaedic and radiology waiting lists.
We continue to implement our model of care as we work towards the new hospital. Our neonatal service (premature and sick new-born babies) in Children’s Health Ireland at Crumlin marked a major step in November 2022 on the way to delivering the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) in the new children’s hospital and providing world-class neonatal care. The unit in CHI at Crumlin has six neonatal high dependency beds for babies with additional care needs. Together with six well-established neonatal high dependency beds in CHI at Temple Street, this will provide long-planned specialised services for a particularly vulnerable group of patients.
Children’s Health Ireland is the ninth cancer centre in the Irish healthcare system, currently providing cancer services for children and adolescents up to 16 years of age as the hub of a network of cancer services. CHI warmly welcomed the launch by the National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) of a framework for the care and support of adolescent and young adults (AYA) with cancer in Ireland. This framework (2022-2026) focuses on the specific needs and risks of AYA cancer patients. Children’s Health Ireland has planned for an increase in capacity in the new children’s hospital to meet the implementation of this framework, specifically the change in highest age for admission from 16 years old to 20 years old based on best international evidence on clinical outcomes for young people with cancer.
“We are supported by our charity partner, Children’s Health Foundation but none of this is possible without our biggest asset, our staff. They provide the essential factor to make our future possible.”
Children’s Health Ireland and our four academic partners of UCD, TCD, RCSI, and DCU collectively agreed to set up a paediatric academic health sciences centre to drive our vision for integrating health services with research, education, and innovation to drive better outcomes for patients and attract and retain the best staff.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly TD, launched our Healthy Ireland Implementation Plan 2022-2025. Children’s Health Ireland encourages and supports staff, patients, and families to lead healthy lives. By creating a supportive, wellbeing focused working environment, staff are empowered to take personal responsibility for their own health and wellbeing. This in turn will support patients and families with the quality of care they are provided.
We procured our electronic healthcare record (Epic) for our new hospital. It will support safer care, better patient experience and provide a paper light environment as a new Digital Hospital.
We launched our first conference on Global Child Health: Communities Healing the World in Crisis in October. CHI also worked with European Children’s Hospital organisation in providing outreach and supports to the Ukraine crisis. We worked closely with children’s hospitals in Poland to support oncology services for young children from Ukraine.
CHI is proud of the way our staff continue to respond to Covid-19 in 2022 and impacts of high viral rates in communities. The implementation of infection control guidelines across all CHI meant that we maintained our patients’ and staff’s safety through the pandemic, with low infection rates throughout the year. We have seen internationally the high rates of viruses such as RSV in children; our staff are dealing with this challenge through the 2022 winter months.
We are very proud of the staff in Children’s Health Ireland, who despite challenges are making progress in paediatric services. We are supported by our charity partner, Children’s Health Foundation but none of this is possible without our biggest asset, our staff. They provide the essential factor to make our future possible. We are in awe of the care and treatment given to children, young people, and families by staff.