New centres 'will offer right care in right place at right time'
The long-promised children's urgent care centre and outpatient clinics in Dublin's Connolly Hospital are expected to be ready at the end of next year.
The new three-storey facility is a satellite centre, linked to the proposed National Children's Hospital, construction of which is due to begin at St James's Hospital this year.
The cost of the new hospital along with the satellite centres at the Connolly and Tallaght hospitals is expected to run to nearly €1bn.
Builders are ready to start construction but are waiting for the final green light from Health Minister Simon Harris, who is due to bring the bill for the three facilities to Cabinet in the coming weeks.
The Connolly centre is due to be ready at the end of 2018 and will become operational on a phased basis.
A 3D model of the proposed building was unveiled yesterday to local Oireachtas members and councillors, including Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar.
The urgent care centre will cater for minor injuries and illnesses. The building will also provide short-stay observation beds and outpatient clinics, therapies, blood testing, general X-ray and ultrasound scans.
The plan also envisages providing child sexual abuse counselling services and dental care.
It means the services can be delivered locally and families can avoid making the journey to the emergency department of the main city hospital.
"Aspects of the satellite service are already being trialled since February 2016, such as the short-stay observation unit," Mr Harris said.
"It is up and running at the paediatric emergency department at Tallaght Hospital, where more than 700 patients have already been treated."
A full information and awareness campaign will be launched in advance of the two satellite centres opening, to alert people to the facilities and encourage them to use them.
Mr Varadkar, who practised as a GP in Castleknock before entering politics, said it will deliver new services to local children as well as young people from north Dublin, north Kildare and Co Meath.
Eilish Hardiman, chief executive of the Children's Hospital Group, pointed out that the vast majority of patients who attend children's hospitals in Dublin are treated on the same day and do not need to be admitted.
"In the children's hospital at Tallaght Hospital, for example, 85pc of children attending its emergency department in 2016 were assessed, treated and discharged on the same day," she said.
"The new outpatient and urgent care centres are designed to allow us to deliver the right care, in the right place, at the right time, ensuring that children and young people return home as soon as possible, which is what every child and their parents want."
Connolly Hospital is also earmarked as the site for the Rotunda maternity hospital when it moves to a new building.