Health Ministers Michelle O’Neill MLA and her southern counterpart Simon Harris TD today committed to a £42million investment in the all-island Congenital Heart Disease Service.
The Ministers made the announcement at the opening of the new Hybrid Cardiac Catheterisation Laboratory at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumlin (OLCHC) Dublin.
The joint opening of the Lab provided a unique platform to confirm both Ministers’ commitment to the further development of the all-island Congenital Heart Disease Network which was established in March 2015. This is the first clinical network of its kind, bringing benefit to patients across the island of Ireland.
Speaking at the opening Michelle O’Neill MLA said: “I am delighted to participate in the opening of the state of the art Hybrid Cardiac Catheterisation Laboratory today, where children from across the island will be cared for by a dedicated team of staff.
“The joint investment, over the next five years, will help to realise our vision of a world-class all-island Network service. I recognise many families would wish to see these services delivered sooner and every effort is being made to deliver this. The investment announced today combined with the detailed planning by the Network Board over the past year will help to achieve this, ensuring that these children will soon be able to have their surgery within a reasonable travelling distance from their homes, and with their pre and post operative care being delivered in Belfast.
“The Congenital Heart Disease Network is a great initiative that benefits all of Ireland. I want to continue with positive All-Ireland approaches to health and social care and address the uncertainties and challenges that now exist as a result of the recent EU referendum.
“A key priority for me is to work with Minister Simon Harris on the further development of all-island networks to tap into the benefits that collaboration on health and social care services will bring to patients across the island.”
The investment by both Health Departments, which includes £1million capital investment to enhance existing facilities in Belfast, will realise the implementation plan put forward by the all-island Congenital Heart Disease Network Board. The plan envisages completing the phased implementation of the transfer of all urgent surgical cases from the north to OLCHC between now and the end of 2017 and all elective surgical cases by the end of 2018. In the interim the Belfast Trust will continue to operate a service level agreement with OLCHC to provide emergency surgical treatment in OLCHC for patients in the north.
Minister Harris said: “Being here today, in the midst of so many people whose sole purpose is to support and reassure children with congenital heart disease and their families is both humbling and uplifting. It is very clear that the staff in Crumlin, the staff who are here from the Clark Clinic in Belfast, and the Network Board have put the best interests of these children at the centre of every decision, and I am delighted to publicly confirm my support for the continued implementation of the Network. This unique collaboration is the first formally established all-island Network for clinical care and I look forward to working with Minister O’Neill and her Department to identify further opportunities for collaboration into the future, so that patients – children and adults alike – can benefit from safe, high quality services with equally high quality outcomes.”
Both Ministers went on to thank Dr Len O’Hagan and his colleagues on the all island Congenital Heart Disease Network Board who have developed the Vision Statement and produced the Business Case and Implementation Plan to support the case for investment. They also paid tribute to the patient representative organisations for their role in supporting heart patients and families across the island of Ireland, and to the excellent treatment and care provided by the clinical, nursing and administrative staff of the Network.