In December 2013, an Expert International Working Group (IWG) was established by former Health Ministers, James Reilly and Edwin Poots, to carry out an independent assessment of current and future needs for cardiology and cardiac surgery for congenital heart disease in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
The primary recommendation of the report was to cease the provision of paediatric cardiac surgery and paediatric interventional cardiology services in Belfast and transfer surgical care of all paediatric patients to Our Ladies Children’s Hospital Crumlin.
The report also recommended that the Belfast programme should refocus on elective, lower complexity adult congenital cardiac surgical and interventional catheterisation procedures and on surgical situations resulting from adult congenital cardiology interventional procedures.
In April 2015, the Congenital Heart Disease Network Board was established by the then Minister for Health, and now An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, and Minister Jim Wells to realise the recommendations set out in the report.
In July 2016, the former Health Minister in the North, Michelle O’Neill MLA and I committed to a significant €57 million investment in the all-island Congenital Heart Disease Service following the approval of the All-island CHD Network Business Case and implementation plan.
The phased implementation of the All-Island CHD Network commenced with Our Ladies Children’s Hospital Crumlin providing cardiothoracic surgery and paediatric cardiac catheterisation for emergency patients from Northern Ireland since late 2015, while treatment of urgent cases commenced in March 2017. The transfer of elective patients from Northern Ireland, which is the next phase in the implementation of the Network, commenced in April last.
During the development of the Full Business Case it was acknowledged that further additional capacity in the paediatric intensive care unit in Crumlin would be required to accommodate all elective patients from Northern Ireland.
The Deputy might wish to note that, on 3 November 2018 at the 3rd Annual Congenital Heart Disease Network Conference, I had the pleasure of announcing the formal approval by both jurisdictions of a 4 bedded extension to the paediatric intensive care unit at Our Ladies Children’s Hospital Crumlin.
The HSE has been requested to consider the costs of this extension in the context of the HSE’s Capital Plan for 2019, which is currently being finalised.
This extension will allow for the expansion and enhancement of the services offered by the Network, benefitting more children and young people on the island of Ireland.