Why the St James’s site is wrong for the national children’s hospital

Opinion: ‘I have presented 22 major reasons for its unsuitability. Construction costs on this site alone will add a minimum of €150 million compared to a green field site’

The site of the proposed National Children’s Hospital, at St James’s Hospital, Dublin. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

The site of the proposed National Children’s Hospital, at St James’s Hospital, Dublin. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

Fri, Aug 8, 2014, 00:01

As developer of three hospitals in this country, the Blackrock, Galway and Hermitage Clinics, I have learned significant lessons from these experiences.

Such lessons prove that the choice of the St James’s Hospital site to locate the proposed children’s hospital is ill-founded and inappropriate.

The site, when cleared, is reported to be twice the size of the Mater site. However, the constraints in relation to access, parking, sewerage, height, lack of a green environment and most of all the lack of potential for further expansion and development automatically should have ruled it out as a choice.

I have previously presented 22 major reasons for its unsuitability. Construction costs on this site alone will add a minimum of €150 million compared to a green field site.

An ideal site exists adjacent to an adult teaching hospital at Blanchardstown, where a maternity hospital can also be co-located.

Planning and designing modern medical facilities that are to serve the children of our nation for the next half-century require considerable flexibility.

The Blackrock Clinic in its 25 years has doubled in size. The parking demands have more than doubled with the addition of a multi-storey car park on adjacent land. This is despite excellent public transport, both bus and Dart routes.

The Galway Clinic in 10 years has already had six additional construction programmes, including trebling of the parking requirement, the addition of a 50 per cent increase in its accommodation, doubling its daycare facility, as well as other new facilities.

The architectural firms proposed to design the new hospital include an international firm BDP which has been involved in the design of the new Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool. This has been described as the hospital in the park.

The architects have stressed the need for open space, a green environment for the children to enjoy, and low rise buildings. Could anything contrast more with what is proposed for the St James’s site?

Written to the Taoiseach

Efforts to express my concerns to the previous minister of health, James Reilly, have been unsuccessful. He was unable to meet me since last December despite numerous requests. I have also written to the Taoiseach and all members of the Cabinet, and have unsuccessfully attempted to arrange a meeting with Enda Kenny over the past six months, both to express my concern, and on a positive side to offer my support to spearhead a state of the art world class hospital on the site at Blanchardstown, on a philanthropic basis, with a small group of like-minded concerned citizens.

This would also be co-located with an adult teaching hospital.

My request for clarity under the Freedom of Information Act as to where the €37 million was spent on the design for the failed Mater proposal, has been unanswered, despite sending my €15 in the envelope! Perhaps no one knows where the money went to and that would explain the lack of response. Eight months is a long time awaiting a reply.

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