Group proposes children’s hospital near M50

Healthcare professionals predict they could open facility by 2017 if State supported project

Health Minister Dr James Reilly TD in 2012 announcing that  St James Hospital Dublin would be the location for the new National Children’s Hospital Photograph: Bryan O’Brien / The Irish Times

Health Minister Dr James Reilly TD in 2012 announcing that St James Hospital Dublin would be the location for the new National Children’s Hospital Photograph: Bryan O’Brien / The Irish Times

Sat, Jan 25, 2014, 19:07

A group of healthcare professionals led by hospital developer and consultant orthopaedic surgeon Jimmy Sheehan has announced proposals to build the new National Children’s hospital on a greenfield site adjacent to the M50 in Blanchardstown, Dublin.

They predict they could open the facility in January 2017 if Government abandoned its plans to build the hospital on the grounds of St James’s Hospital and supported their project instead.

The group, which said it was offering services on a completely voluntary basis, also includes Jonathan Irwin, chief executive of the children’s charity the Jack and Jill Foundation and Dr Fin Breathnach, a retired consultant paediatric oncologist who spent the bulk of his professional life working at Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin.

They said the St James site, at 6.3 hectares is the same size as the Crumlin hospital site and is therefore inadequate.

Among the site’s other drawbacks, they pointed to the need to “decant” existing buildings and services from it; poor access with existing staff at St James’s claiming it can take up to 45 minutes to exit the campus at rush hour; potential planning stumbling blocks as outlined in the Dolphin report; and poor helicopter access.

Mr Sheehan told The Irish Times the proposed Blanchardstown site is large enough to co-locate two of the three existing maternity hospitals adjacent to the new national children’s hospital. He was also speaking about the plans at the Reform Alliance conference in he RDS today.

He said the site, which is next-door to the existing James Connolly Memorial adult hospital, is already in State ownership, with 36 hectares currently unused.

“Cost savings of between 50 million and 100 million euro are available because there is no need to decant existing facilities”, he said.

The successful developer of the Blackrock, Galway and Hermitage Clinics also pointed to excellent access off the M50 for parents and children travelling from around the country to access the new facility’s tertiary services.

“Once given the green light we will have this hospital open for children in two and a half years”, Mr Sheehan said.

The group stated research has shown that over 90 per cent of patients travel by car to a national children’s hospital.

“ Each year five to six children needlessly die because maternity hospitals are not physically connected to a children’s hospital. Even a short ambulance drive for this vulnerable group increases mortality”, they added.

Asked why he was getting involved in a project for purely altruistic motives, Mr Sheehan said it was to use his experience to build and deliver the national facility in a timely fashion and to have his name associated with a world class hospital that would provide a superior standard of care for all Irish children, north and south.

Originally proposed over 20 years ago, plans to replace the three existing Dublin paediatric hospitals with one facility became mired in controversy. After much debate Dublin’s Mater hospital was chosen; however in February 2012 planning permission for this site was rejected.

The current Minister for Health James Reilly commissioned the Dolphin report on the issue and in November 2012 a site at St James’s hospital was chosen for the project.