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Immediate investment in staff for Neonatal facilities in new Children’s Hospital needed – Ward

4th May 2024 - Senator Barry Ward

Investment in staff for neonatal facilities must be prioritised now, in order to be ready to transfer to the National Children’s Hospital as soon as its doors open, a Fine Gael Senator has said.

Senator Barry Ward, speaking in the Seanad this week, referred to the recent resignation of the neonatal clinical lead for Temple Street, Dr Ann Hickey, as a need to listen to clinicians’ concerns.

“If we start training in neonatal teams and set up the unit now, they can be ready to hit the ground running the moment the children’s hospital doors open. Time is now against us,” he stated.

“Dr. Hickey has repeatedly highlighted deficiencies in practice around caring for post-operative and extremely premature babies. Neonatology is a specialist area dealing with the tiniest, most premature babies, born weighing less than 500 grams. This specialised discipline saves lives where they might otherwise be lost.

“At the moment, we know that neonatal intensive care units (NICU) are not present in our maternity hospitals, and so highly vulnerable and delicate newborn children have to be transferred to Children’s Hospital Ireland for specialist treatments. When they arrive in CHI, they are not placed in NICU, but paediatric intensive care units (PICU). The staff in PICU are highly trained and qualified, but are not neonatologists and the environment in a PICU is suboptimal for a smaller neonate.

“I support clinical practitioners who say that a neonatal intensive care unit must be established in either Temple Street or Crumlin Children’s Hospital in advance of the opening of the new national children’s hospital, which will have this specialist service and is scheduled for the second half of next year.

“We need to ensure the infrastructure is in place and ready to hit the ground running when the new children’s hospital opens. That means 80 neonatal nurses and 15 neonatal consultant doctors need to be in place now, so those teams are ready and working well when the transfer to the new hospital happens.”

“Irish practices of caring for neonates are now out of step with our European Union neighbours. Ireland is now only EU country that doesn’t have a NICU within a maternity hospital and we have to recognise that this has potential to impact on outcomes of some of Ireland’s most vulnerable newborns.

“The CHI is set to be a world class facility, but in tandem with infrastructure, the hiring and training of staff will be crucial to patients’ experiences and outcomes. Parents and patients must be reassured now that the Minister for Health will have this covered.”

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