I thank the Deputy for this important question. Children’s Health Ireland has advised that recruitment is well under way to secure the required staff for the opening of the outpatient urgent care centre at Connolly Hospital and that the majority of staff have been recruited, with start dates over the forthcoming weeks and, in some cases, months. A total of 13 consultant posts are required and, to date, I believe ten of these positions have been filled - six paediatric emergency medicine consultants and four general paediatric consultants - and recruitment is ongoing for the remaining posts. As we said, there are recruitment challenges nationally and internationally in certain specialties, such as radiology. I am assured by Children’s Health Ireland, which I met in recent weeks, that plans are in place to ensure Children’s Health Ireland at Connolly will open at the end of July 2019.
Children’s Health Ireland has also advised that all nursing positions have been successfully filled and, as the Deputy rightly said, these are generally nurses working within the health service agreeing to move to the new facility. Health and social care professions and administrative posts are also being filled internally. The delivery of services at the centre will be provided on a phased basis based on community need and patient volume, and the initial hours of operation are still being determined. Children’s Health Ireland will make an announcement on the initial hours of opening. I too asked it that question in recent weeks. Very good progress is being made in regard to recruitment.
During the initial opening phase from July to December 2019, two specialties - general paediatrics and orthopaedics - will deliver outpatient services at Connolly. Importantly, this will provide an additional 3,600 fracture orthopaedics and 2,750 general paediatric outpatient appointments, which means more than 6,000 additional children will be treated between July and December as a result of the opening of this new facility. When fully operational, it is projected that Connolly's urgent care centre will provide 33,000 outpatient appointments annually, contributing to significant reductions in waiting times and waiting experience, as well as 25,000 urgent care assessments, 30,000 X-rays and 6,000 ultrasounds.
It is still intended to open the facility at the end of July. The operating opening hours will be decided by Children’s Health Ireland in the coming weeks and announced. It has made very good progress with recruitment.