Tuesday, 22 May 2001
Dáil Eireann Debate
85. Mr. Yates asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to the concerns of Heart Children Ireland in relation to the treatment of children with congenital heart defects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14863/01]
Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): Services at Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin are provided under arrangement with the Eastern Regional Health Authority. I am aware of concerns over the waiting times experienced by children awaiting treatment for congenital heart defects. The Eastern Regional Health Authority in its dealings with Our Lady's Hospital has prioritised the development of cardiac services. In this regard, additional funding of £1 million was made available during 2000 under the cardiac waiting list programme to allow for an increase in activity at Our Lady's Hospital and for the referral of children to established centres in the USA and the UK.
The number of patients on the cardiac waiting list at Our Lady's Hospital dropped from 88 on 31 December 1999 to 27 on 31 March 2001. This reduction reflects the progress which has been made arising from the targeting of substantial additional resources to this area. This has also facilitated the appointment of an additional consultant in cardiac surgery who took up duties at the hospital in August 2000. In addition approval was given to the recruitment of two additional anaesthetists and support staff.
I am advised by the Eastern Regional Health Authority that significant additional resources are being targeted at the further development of cardiac services in Our Lady's Hospital under the Provider Plan Agreement between the hospital and the authority for the current year. The plan, which is being finalised, will allow for the recruitment of 57 additional ICU, theatre and ward nurses. Proposals for the appointment of two additional cardiologists are also being considered in this context.
In addition, I am pleased to inform the Deputy that my Department has already sanctioned a major theatre development at the hospital. This  development, when completed, will provide five new operating theatres complete with ancillary accommodation, a day surgery area incorporating two day theatre suites and a central sterile supplies department. When these theatres are fully commissioned it is expected that the hospital will be in a position to perform an additional 100 paediatric cardiac procedures per annum, which is an increase of 40% on its existing capacity. The necessary planning for this work is now at an advanced stage. The next step will be to seek tenders for the work with commencement of construction to follow shortly thereafter.
Finally, I recently announced the provision of a capital grant of £3 million to the Eastern Regional Health Authority for the provision and replacement of urgent priority equipment and minor capital works at Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children. I am satisfied that the range of measures described above will facilitate the enhancement of services for children with congenital heart defects and other conditions at Our Lady's Hospital.
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