Putting children’s hospital on a site that makes sense
Combined campus thinking must inform development of new national children’s hospital
In terms of public transport, Luas access is better at St James’s West but bus access is superior at St James’s South. A small step, such as a frequent shuttle bus to St James’s South from Heuston Station, would deliver connectivity to both Luas and mainline rail.
Critically, St James’s South has room to expand. To progress with St James’s West is essentially to turn a blind eye to all further development which would best be located in close proximity to a national children’s hospital. As Dolphin noted, the construction of a new national children’s hospital “is not a stand-alone decision”.
Unless room for expansion was to be dismissed as an irrelevant ingredient – which is simply impossible – St James’s South is the better site. Moreover, as a leading tertiary and cancer hospital in the State, it’s vital that St James’s West campus retains scope to accommodate expanded clinical and research facilities devoted to cancer: the very essence of good campus planning is that those elements which benefit most from direct proximity are located closest to each other.
The strategic advantages of locating the national children’s hospital at St James’s South also come out in the cost figures. The cost of building at St James’s West is estimated at €510 million. The projection for St James’s South is €380 million, with €20 million of this for land purchase (the site is currently controlled by Nama and Dublin City Council).
At €130 million, the saving is about 25 per cent of total costs. In large part, that accrues from less demolition, no relocation of medical facilities and more straightforward construction. Indicative plans show that the structure at St James’s South could be seven to eight storeys in height, each floor being of roughly equal area, with the large floorplates making for lower costs and better design.
The result is better for patients too; the plans show each room having natural light, for example. With far less land available a structure at St James’s West would have to be taller, denser or incorporate fewer elements – or some combination of the foregoing.
Progress to date
Progress on a new children’s hospital since November 2012 appears to be slow, but we should not underestimate the progress that has been made to date. During the last 10 years or so, even the idea of the State securing 15 acres of prime land for hospital development would be viewed sceptically: today, that scepticism is gone. Similarly, the composition of the hospital group to drive this project is clear: it is the group in which St James’s is the pre-eminent hospital.
Now it is a question of a soon-to-be-constituted hospital trust – and the medical professionals that make it up – looking to the best interests of their patients, present and future, the national interest, and to their own best interests to deliver a world-class national children’s hospital on their combined campus.
James Nix is policy director at An Taisce – the National Trust for Ireland. email: email@example.com. antaisce.org