Children's hospital site now a 'political decision'

 

THE LOCATION of the new national children’s hospital is becoming a political decision rather than a medical one, the master of the Rotunda maternity hospital has warned.

With a long-awaited decision on the project imminent, Dr Sam Coulter-Smith has expressed his unease at the manner in which the Government appeared to be approaching the decision.

“I sense a growing unhappiness about the process. It now appears to be a political decision, not a clinician’s one,” said Dr Coulter-Smith.

The Rotunda, Temple Street children’s hospital and the Mater have jointly proposed building the new hospital on a site at the Mater in central Dublin. Under the proposal, the Rotunda would move to a new building on the Mater site.

However, informed speculation in recent months has seen Connolly hospital in Blanchardstown and a greenfield site in Belcamp installed as favourites to get approval from Cabinet.

Connolly is in the Dublin West constituency of Ministers Leo Varadkar and Joan Burton while Belcamp lies inside the recently redrawn constituency boundary of Minister for Health James Reilly.

Dr Reilly appointed a review group to examine possible locations after a planning application to build the hospital on the Mater site was rejected by An Bord Pleanála last February. The group chaired by businessman Frank Dolphin was given 70 days to prepare a report, which was submitted in June. Some 118 days later, Dr Reilly has yet to submit the matter to Cabinet for a decision.

Dr Coulter-Smith said it appeared the Mater bid was not “flavour of the month” in political circles. What had started as a race between the Mater and St James’s hospital had now become a political decision in which “peripheral sites” such as Belcamp and Connolly featured prominently. He said there had been no contact with the Rotunda since the Mater submission, even though the provision of maternity services would have to be addressed regardless of which submission was chosen. “There has been no discussion with us in relation to any maternity hospital element of a project.”