Written Answers. - Cardiac Services.

Nora Owen


103 Mrs. Owen asked the Minister for Health and Children the additional resources, if any, made available to the Childrens' Hospital to expedite cardiac surgery for children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10354/00]

Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin is the national paediatric cardiac centre and my Department has been aware that there has been concern over waiting times for children in this specialty. The development of this specialty at the hospital has been the subject of discussions with my Department and the hospital for some time.

Some of the measures cited by the hospital as contributing to the increasing pressure on this service were the lack of theatre space and ICU beds, shortage of ICU trained nurses and advances in surgical and interventional techniques available.

In December 1997 the hospital was allocated a sum of £500,00 from the cardiac waiting list initiative to implement measures aimed at reducing pressures in the most effective and appropriate manner. The hospital proposed to use the funding for a number of measures. These included the provision of an additional four ICU beds, the implementation of a training programme for ICU nurses and the purchase of cardiac procedures from appropriate UK paediatric hospitals.

In 1998 and in 1999 under the same initiative the hospital was allocated sums of £878,550 and £679,000 respectively. In addition, approval for a third cardiac surgeon has issued, the recruitment procedure has been finalised and the selected candidate is expected to take up duty in July 2000. Included in the hospital's allocation for 2000 is the provision of £700,000 to continue the initiative and the details of the funding will be discussed with the hospital in the context of its service plan for 2000.

It has been agreed that the hospital's cardiac surgical capacity should be increased and in this regard a design team for the theatre development has been appointed. When completed the new theatre development will provide five new operating theatres complete with ancillary accommodation, a day surgery area and a central sterile supplies department. The existing theatre facilities will also be upgraded to provide a further two theatre suites. When these theatres are fully commissioned it is expected that Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children 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 prioritisation of the waiting list is a matter for the clinicians concerned and that immediate medical treatment is provided for all urgent cases. I am confident that the appointment of additional consultant staff and the completion of the theatre development will have a positive impact on the reduction of waiting times in this specialty.