Government insists no verdict yet on hospital


GOVERNMENT SOURCES have played down reports that a decision on the location of the new national children’s hospital is a “done deal” and that St James’s Hospital will be awarded the contract.

The Cabinet will make its final decision on where the hospital will be located next Tuesday, after being briefed by Minister for Health James Reilly. He will give his assessment of the findings of a report drawn up by an expert group, chaired by former civil servant Frank Dolphin, which assessed the merits of all the bidders.

Yesterday RTÉ said it had obtained a copy of the unpublished report, which was completed in June. Its findings reportedly ranked St James’s Hospital ahead of the James Connolly Memorial Hospital in Blanchardstown and the Coombe Maternity Hospital as locations for the new hospital. The hospital initially given the green light to develop the children’s hospital, the Mater, was ranked fourth in the Dolphin report, according to RTÉ.

Co-location with an adult teaching hospital with a preference for tri-location, if possible, with an adult and maternity hospital were issues favoured in choosing the site for the new hospital. Overall cost, as well as timely completion of the project, were also important factors.

Amid rumours that there have been divisions in Cabinet, spokespeople for Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore had over the weekend denied reports he was in favour of St James’s or any other bid.

“No decision has been made yet by Cabinet [on choosing a site],” said his spokeswoman last night.

Another Government source said the decision was far from being made and discussions between Ministers still needed to take place.

The material leaked to RTÉ showed St James’s performed better on the favoured criteria although Connolly and the Coombe hospitals both offered more potential for future planning as they had very large sites. However, Connolly was not in a position to offer as many specialities as St James’s with the authors of the report noting it would need a substantial investment of resources to develop into a major adult hospital of similar status to St James’s and the Mater.

Those campaigning for the Connolly site have pointed out that St James’s might encounter the same planning difficulties as the Mater did, because of its location in a comparatively densely developed area in the city centre.

The Mater, which won the original bid, had its proposal rejected by An Bord Pleanála earlier this year because of its scale. Since then, the size of the site has been increased by a third and the height of the building modified.

Other contenders suggest the release of the Dolphin Report findings into the public domain will put the Government under pressure in relation to making an independent decision, and it will find it very hard not to favour St James’s.

“I have read the terms of reference for Dolphin and the group was not asked to put a scorecard out or not asked to rank or select,” said Dr Brendan Kinsey, chairman of the Mater’s medical executive.

“Now it is out there like a fait accompli. We are very unhappy with it. Once this idea is out there it will be very hard for it to go against it.”

Dublin City Council and Fingal County Council both issued statements yesterday saying they were happy that shortlisted proposals within their areas would work from a planning perspective.

“No one can be definitive on the planning aspect of any site at this stage because the final arbiter will be An Bord Pleanála,” a Dublin City Council statement added.

Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher called for the Dolphin report to be published and acted on immediately. Sinn Féin’s Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said the project needed to be completed as quickly as possible.

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