Cabinet to back St James's as children's hospital site
The Cabinet is expected to give the go-ahead today to a new €500 million national children’s hospital that will be based at a site close to St James’s and the Coombe hospitals in south Dublin city.
Minister for Health James Reilly confirmed yesterday that he would be bringing a recommendation to the Cabinet today on the location of the site. The process to establish the hospital has become a protracted and tangled issue, with its problems exacerbated by planning permission being refused for the original site at the Mater hospital in Dublin.
Dr Reilly yesterday conceded that the Government’s original timeframe to develop the new hospital by 2016 – during its term in office – would not now be met.
He said that timeframe was the Government’s original intention before the proposed location at the Mater ran into difficulties on planning grounds. “I do not think that is achievable any more,” he said.
His comments on the timeframe were received as an indication that the Mater would not be chosen, as it was the only hospital that could have been completed on time.
Dr Reilly did not specify a new timeframe but if it is significantly beyond 2016, the Government will face criticism from Opposition parties and others for not making good on its promise to complete the project within the lifetime of the Coalition.
Over recent days a proposal to build the new national children’s hospital adjacent to the Coombe Women’s Hospital in Dublin, but under the aegis of an expanded St James’s Hospital, has emerged as the favoured option for the project.
Dr Reilly is expected to recommend to Cabinet the creation of an integrated academic health campus in Dublin 8, comprising St James’s and the Coombe.
The new hospital would be built on State-owned lands beside the Coombe and both hospitals would be grouped with St James’s. Services such as human resources, administration and payroll would be shared to cut costs.
The lands offered by the Coombe are seen as offering the lowest planning risk of any of the bids submitted from inner-city locations.
The 20.5 acre site comprises the disused Player Wills factory, the Bailey Wilson scrap-metal salvage site and the derelict Boys’ Brigade playing fields, which are in the ownership of Dublin City Council.
St James’s was ranked highest for its medical specialities by the Dolphin review group, which examined all the bids. However, there is concern in Government circles that the lands it has offered are too small for such a big project. It is feared they could suffer the same planning fate as the Mater, which was selected for the project but had its planning application rejected by An Bord Pleanála.
As a result, a compromise proposal has emerged to expand the St James’s campus so that it envelopes the larger site adjacent to the Coombe and to build the children’s hospital on these lands. This would remove the need to build a new maternity hospital. St James’s is about 600m from the Coombe.
Prof Brendan Kinsley, chairman of the Mater hospital’s medical executive, said last night that if the hospital were to be situated near the Coombe and St James’s, the hospital would not meet the criteria set out in the terms of reference. “It will not be trilocated. It’s going to cost more money. It won’t be delivered by 2016,” Prof Kinsley said.
The development of the new national children’s hospital will be the biggest capital project during the lifetime of the current Government.