The ward will re-open for inpatient youngsters round-the-clock from Monday to Thursday from March 18 - but while continue with the 8am-8pm service from Friday to Sunday, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has told MSPs.
But there are concerns that the ward won’t full re-open on a “24/7” basis until October. It is now 18 months since this was halted due to staff shortages.
Opposition MSPs warned the situation will not be fully resolved until the unit’s 24/7 service returns.
The partial reopening is achievable “because of improved medical and nursing staff numbers” Ms Freeman said.
“From a nursing position , the ward will be fully staffed overnight four nights a week Monday to Thursday with a paediatric nurse in the emergency department for the remaining three nights Friday to Sunday as is the current arrangement.”
She added: “NHS Lothian expects the improved staffing position will support their commitment to re-opening the in-patient unit in October 2019.”
More than 1000 children have been transferred to the Royal Sick Children’s hospital in Edinburgh since the St John’s ended its round-the-clock cover for inpatient youngsters.
The resumption of overnight inpatient services, on March 18, comes three months after NHS Lothian recruited three new trainee Advanced Nurse Practitioners (ANPs) as part of a drive to create a robust staffing model.
Dr Tracey Gillies, Medical Director, NHS Lothian, said: “We are really pleased that we are able to reinstate children’s inpatient services for four nights of the week in St John’s Hospital.
“We have always said that we could only restore the full service when it was safe and sustainable to do so and that has been our priority throughout.”
Former Labour leader Kezia Dugdale, the Lothians MSP, welcomed partial re-opening.
But she said: “This still means that sick and injured children are traveling past their local hospital, towards the Royal Hospital of Sick Children in Edinburgh for treatment until the inpatient unit is fully reopened. This extra distance means that children’s conditions can worsen on the way to hospital and families have to deal with extra stress and travel greater distances to be with their children.”
“It is concerning that a full re-opening of the inpatient unit is still not planned until October. Periods such as the summer can often bring about added pressures for staff, yet there are still only plans to have a full service for four days a week at that point.
Tory MSP Gordon Lindhurst added: “I hope that the SNP Government will ensure that sufficient resources are in place for NHS Lothian to have the staff in place in the coming months ahead of the planned full re-opening.
“Patients across Lothian will rightly have their doubts over the ward fully re-opening on schedule, considering the closures that have taken place in recent years.”