October 2017 | Deireadh Fómhair 2017

Kathleen Lynn Children's Hospital?

Fri, 27 October 17 14:58

What’s in a Name?

It is nearly 100 years since Dr Kathleen Lynn first proposed building a national tertiary paediatric hospital. To put that in some context, in the intervening period of time, we’ve had 36 Ministers for Health and the Department of Health has changed its name at least six times.

So it is with some bemusement that we learn the name proposed for the new facility will be ‘Phoenix Children’s Health’.  It is brilliant that we’ve moved on from medical and party politics which have frustrated the development of this key piece of infrastructure. Brilliant that we are now discussing the name instead of marvelling at what will be the ‘Largest Children’s Hospital in Europe’.

For the avoidance of any doubt, we hope that our National Children’s Hospital is built promptly, properly and with the network of essential services including the supporting urgent paediatric care centres around the country. With luck this hospital will still be caring for the grandchildren and grandchildren of those born today.  Who knows how many times the hospital will have changed its name through its lifetime.

Why Phoenix

So perhaps you’ll indulge us some reflection on the proposed name.  We are told that it is so named because:

  1. Phoenix is a mythical character. (Hope this isn’t ominous.)
  2. Phoenix is a symbol of ‘Renewal’, ‘Inspiration’, ‘Vision’, ‘Hope’, ‘Growth’, ‘Opportunity’ and ‘Regeneration’. (Perhaps quite apt for a project that has had such a chequered history.)
  3. It’s one word. (Even though the name is going to be 3 words at least!)
  4. It is easy to read and pronounce. (Irish people are well familiar with the Phoenix Park although of course this hospital will be some 15 minutes away from this Dublin landmark).
  5. It translates easily into Irish as ‘Féinics’. (Although the word Phoenix is an anglicisation of the Irish phrase ‘Fhionn Uisce’ meaning clear water.)
  6. It’s easy to spell. (Although as Storm Ophelia showed you can rely on Irish people to mis-spell everything with ‘Opheila’, ‘Opehlia’ and ‘Opheila’ all volunteered by Irish twitterati.)

Why Not Phoenix

Opponents of the name – and let’s face it there has to be opponents to every aspect of our Children’s Hospital - say that ‘Phoenix Children’s Health’ sounds like some sinister private corporation not a friendly, welcoming hospital. There are, of course, other more important considerations.

  1. When one wants to remember where a hospital is, it is worth having the word ‘Hospital’ in the title.
  2. The hospital won’t be in the Phoenix Park
  3. There is already a Phoenix Care Centre in Dublin which is an adult acute psychiatry facility.
  4. Phoenix Children’s Hospital is a well-known US hospital in Arizona.
  5. Phoenix was the mythological firebird (not good idea to release name the same week as the developers object to including fire sprinklers) that lives for 500 years (a bit optimistic expectation of longevity?) before dying in a pyre of its own marking, sparked by the sun (portent of global warning?). Fortunately, it becomes re-born to arise new from the ashes. (We hope that Phoenix represents a rebirth from an unseemly firestorm of delays and controversial.)

The name was chosen, we are told, following an extensive 9 month consultation involving 6 focus groups, 7 roadshows and 300 proposed names.  It has been endorsed by the Children’s Hospital Group Board although we’re not sure what the National Children’s Hospital Development Board think or if both will have to change their names also.  Perhaps it would have been sufficient to name the building project as ‘Project Phoenix’ reflecting the raising of something beautiful from the ashes of our destructive national disregard for children, their health and wellbeing.

Might We Suggest?

Some of our staff and alumni have suggested that the Hospital be named the ‘Kathleen Lynn Children’s Hospital’ or variant thereof.  An alumna of UCD Medicine, Dr Kathleen Lynn (1892–1976) and a small band of Irish women established the first children’s hospital of the emerging Irish state. St Ultan’s Hospital for Infants was an independent, multidenominational hospital which opened in 1919 in Charlemont Street.  The women were committed to the provision of the best possible care for our children and valued equal rights and opportunities for all citizens in the face of rampant sectarianism and sexism. 

For a country that still struggles to recognise women among its national icons and which has been catastrophically negligent in the care of its children, it would be a fitting gesture to build the national children’s hospital and name it after her.

See online petition.