Children's hospital on the brink of financial collapse
A €9.8m children's intensive care unit was opened today at Our Lady's Hospital in Crumlin.
But the launch was overshadowed by reports that the hospital will run out of funds in six months.
A funding crisis at the country's largest children's hospital means the 248-bed facility will run out of money before the end of 2011.
The new ICU doubles the space available for treating children and should make the experience more comfortable for both patients and their families.
However, it is understood that unless an emergency bailout is provided, services at the hospital could be severely cut within a few months -- leading to growing waiting lists and the deferral of procedures.
The prospect of a bailout looks remote, as the hospital's board has already been told it has to cope with its budget allocation of almost €120m agreed at the start of the year.
Minister for Health Dr James Reilly was open ing the paediatric intensive care unit this morning.
Director of ICU, Dr Martina Healy said: "The old intensive care facility was wholly inadequate for the care of critically ill children. This new unit will provide four extra paediatric ICU beds to the hospital, bringing the total ICU bed complement at the hospital to 25."
The only two children's intensive care units in the country are housed at Our Lady's and Children's University Hospital, Temple Street. Both hospitals continue to work closely through the PICU network, which discusses daily availability for the country's sickest children.
Dr Reilly has made it clear to the board of the hospital that it has to cope with the funding allocation agreed at the start of the year.
And the minister has also instructed the Secretary General of his Department to advise the HSE that all budget holders across the entire health service have to similarly make ends meet, regardless of the difficulties they face.
Crumlin is Ireland's largest paediatric hospital, employing more than 1,600 staff. It is responsible for the provision of the majority of tertiary care services for children, including the national centre for cardiac surgery and haematology/oncology, major burns, medical genetics and medical research for childhood illnesses.
It treats almost 25,000 in-patient and day cases and performs 13,500 operating procedures each year.
Opened in 1956, it was specifically designed to care for and treat sick children. It is built on a large site which was provided by the archbishop of Dublin.
The hospital board met on June 8 to consider a financial crisis which has been looming for some time. Crumlin received an allocation of almost €120m for the current year--a cut of €5m on 2010. The hospital already has a deficit of €10m being carried forward from 2007.
Following the meeting, the chairman of the Board of Directors, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin wrote to Dr Reilly and to the chief executive of the Health Service Executive Cathal Magee to outline the scale of the financial difficulties.
Dr Martin noted in his letter that the minister had directed that any proposed service restrictions should be brought to his direct attention.
"At the start of 2011, based on our HSE revenue allocation, Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin faced a funding gap of €9m.
"In response, the hospital have introduced a targeted management plan, which will realise €4m through real cost reduction and income generation.
"Of the remaining €5m, a total of €3.1m was committed to be achieved directly by the HSE through its national procurement programme without having any impact on the quantum of services being provided.
"On the basis of progress communicated to date, we estimate this programme will deliver less than €100,000," Dr Martin said.
In addition, the hospital faces additional shortfalls, including superannuation liabilities, the archbishop pointed out.
In a stark warning on the hospital's perilous financial situation, he warned: "On the basis of current funding and expenditure projections, OLCHC will run out of cash in November 2011.
"If there is no remedy found for the current funding deficit, it is inevitable that we will not be able to maintain the levels of service we currently provide to sick children and their families from every corner of the island."