Our Lady’s Children Hospital Foundation Day 2016
“PROUD OF OUR HISTORY WITH AN EYE ON THE FUTURE”
Speaking notes of Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin and Chairman of the Board
Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin, 25th November 2016
“Proud of our history with an eye on the future” is a fairly apt description of this moment in the history of this hospital and indeed of the overall state of hearth care for children and adolescents in Ireland today.
The situation in which paediatric health services in Ireland find themselves is complex. We have a dream of a world class new National Children’s Hospital which is now definitively on the way to realisation. This is however a working hospital which has a record of top class service to children of which we are obviously proud. It is not just pride in our past: it is a responsibility which we have to carry on until that moment when the final child or the final piece of equipment definitively leaves this building. There can be no compromising on that responsibility.
All this takes place in a difficult economic situation in which decisions are taken when even one of the most fundamental responsibilities of any nation, the health of its children, finds itself in competition with other needs and at times the health of children finds itself done the line of priorities. We all understand the economic challenges; but there are occasions when compromise in the wrong places comes back later to haunt.
I will say just make three points as a general introduction to the themes which I am sure the other speakers will address.
The first thing is about our history. This is a voluntary hospital. When I say that, I am speaking not just of the legal status of its governance. I am talking about a culture. I am talking about a hospital which is embedded in community. This is a voluntary hospital around which an extraordinary sense of solidarity and generosity has evolved. People give generously because they know of the quality of care that children receive here. “Crumlin” is not just a vague but attractive trademark. People give generously to Crumlin because it is the depositary of thousands stories of children and their families who attended here, often over long periods. It is a depositary of anxieties which were turned into hope through professionalism and human care and beyond. It is a depositary of the realised hopes of children who felt that they might never be like other children but whose hopes and aspirations were restored. Crumlin is a depositary of the anguish of parents who were accompanied in difficult moments and of a staff which could quietly proudly rejoice and even shed the odd tear from having been part of what may have seemed almost a miracle in restoring a child to being fully themselves with a future. The staff of Crumlin is wildly proud of moments like that. That is what ethos is about.
My second point is sadly about young lives where hope has failed. We have in Dublin a very high rate of youth suicide. A children’s hospital has to be one of the focal points in creating a culture in which such a tragic situation is addressed. This obviously cannot be done by the hospital alone. But this hospital is a privileged listening post and a platform in society which should be in the forefront in fostering greater focus on this problem.
A hospital serving children and adolescents must be a catalyst in generating sensitivity to a problem which in so many was – and to an extent still is – kept buried within our Irish society. It is a challenge of opening a door of compassion and care and support and at the same time opening up a door of awareness. The more that door opens, the more society will be sensitive to the significant problems linked with suicide in Ireland and how the worst thing that can be done in the face of this reality is to try to hide it.
My third point is a simple one. For many people of my generation the three letters NHS mean something very important. Obviously the NHS has its challenges; nothing is perfect. Some of the challenges that the NHS faces in Britain are similar to our own here in Ireland and elsewhere in Europe. Some of its problems are the classic ones which arise when necessary bureaucracy grows and loses direction and focus.
But the basic inspiration of the NHS of fostering access to quality health care for all and especially for the underprivileged remains something which has always inspired me. I am especially happy that the plans for the future National Children Hospital place side by side the aims of building a world class hospital, with the aim of an overhaul of the modal of care for children across society.
I am not a gambling man, but you do not have to a specialist to realise that when you talk about the odds in favour of investing in children’s health you are talking about a real winner. There is no better way of putting our eyes on the future than investing without compromise in children’s health. That is what Crumlin hospital has always been about; its staff are rightly proud of their past history and even more passionate about the is to be done in the future.