PATIENTS and staff lined the balconies of the Midlands Regional Hospital at Tullamore last Thursday evening, March 3, to watch Taoiseach Brian Cowen perform the official opening.
However, with the Taoiseach arriving an hour late, most patients were unable to stay for his speech.
An ecumenical blessing started off the occasion.
Then Mr Cowen, who received a standing ovation on his arrival, said having been the Minister who first approved the project, he was particularly delighted to be able to officiate at its formal opening.
“The building of the hospital was funded under the National Development Plan at a cost of €150 million and provides almost 1,000 jobs in this area. And all will agree that it is money very well spent - a major investment in the future of healthcare in this area,” he said about the hospital which opened its doors in 2007.
The first hospital on the site was built in the late 1930s with a budget of £90,000, two thirds of which was provided by the Hospitals Sweepstakes Trust. “The foundation stone was laid in 1937 by Sean T O’Kelly, the then
Minister for Health and Local Government and the Architect, Michael Scott, provided us with a building which to this day is regarded as one of very significant architectural merit,” said Mr Cowen.
He said the original hospital provided the range of services that were offered by county hospitals at that time including medicine, surgery and maternity services.
By the 1960s there was much discussion about how hospital services should be organised in the future and in 1968 the famous Fitzgerald Report recommended that the Regional Hospital for the Midlands should be located
Mr Cowen said great credit was due to all staff at the hospital right down the line. “A hospital is about providing high quality care for patients and this cannot happen without a highly trained and committed staff. I would like
to commend the staff and management alike for their ongoing work and for their efforts in making the transition from the old to the new hospital, which was one of the biggest hospital moves in the history of the Irish
Health Service,” he said.
Mr Cowen made reference to comments made earlier in the day questioning his opening of the hospital at this time. “I do not begrudge my political opponents their victory. I know they would not begrudge me,” he said and described the it as part of his “legacy”.
James Conway, HSE Assistant National Director acknowledged the commitment and dedication of the staff everyone involved in bringing the hospital to fruition – the project team, planners, designers, builders, and contractors who “should be justifiably proud of what they have achieved here.
“In addition I would like to especially mention the tremendous work of the Friends of the Hospital and all our friends in the community who continue to contribute and support the hospital.”
Clinical Director and Consultant Haematologist Dr Gerard Crotty, spoke on behalf of the medical staff and expressed their enthusiasm to work in such an impressive facility. “This hospital is a modern, state of the art facility. It compares very well with other new hospitals in terms of its build and ambiance and has provided a very heartening and comfortable place to treat and be treated. In addition, it provides the obvious immediate benefit of improving the day to day working environment for all our staff.”
Orlaith O’Brien, Director of Nursing at the Hospital said “Tullamore has always been seen as a very progressive hospital to work in and this new facility has contributed greatly to this outlook. The nursing staff appreciates the magnificent bright and airy surroundings of the new hospital. The new working environment has definitely benefited both patients and staff alike.”
A presentation was made to the first patient at the news hospital in 2007, Clara woman Esther Watkins.
The Taoiseach’s wife Mary Cowen was also presented with a bouquet of flowers for all her work with the hospital.
Music for the event was provided by a string quartet from the Sacred Heart School.
Meanwhile newly elected Laois Offaly Deputy Brian Stanley said there are only 160 bed in use in the new facility compared to 220 in the old Hospital, and so 80 bed spaces are not in use.
“Despite the new 31 bed orthopaedic ward and the 19 bed ENT ward been fully commissioned, they remain closed. 24 trolleys out of 48 are not in use in the new day hospital. The Nuclear Medicine Department is also closed with the equipment still in boxes after two years!
“The front line staff in the A & E Department are stretched to the limit which is causing long delays for patients to be attended to.
“I intend raising these issues with the new Minister for Health as soon as she/he is appointed and I will be pressing the case for the hospital to be utilised in full,” said Deputy Stanley.