Minister favours St James's site for hospital

Sat, Oct 27, 2012, 01:00

MINISTER FOR Health James Reilly will propose St James’s hospital as the location for the new national children’s hospital at a Cabinet meeting to decide the issue later this month.

St James’s has emerged as the preferred location for the project from the consideration by Dr Reilly and his officials of a report submitted by a review group last June, The Irish Times understands.

Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown is ranked in second position and the Mater, the location originally chosen for the project until a planning application was rejected earlier this year, is ranked third.

Although St James’s is now in pole position to win the project, informed sources say the outcome of Cabinet deliberations is by no means a foregone conclusion. It is expected that potential planning issues in relation to the St James’s site by the South Circular Road will be intensively scrutinised in the lead-up to the final decision by Government Ministers. The Mater, which has strong backing among the medical community, is fighting a rearguard action to make up lost ground, according to sources.

Dr Reilly is thought to favour Connolly, which is located in the constituency of Ministers Joan Burton and Leo Varadkar, while St James’s is favoured by Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore. Earlier this week, it emerged that Mr Gilmore was taking his own soundings on the various bids for the project.

On Thursday, Dr Reilly briefed Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the Tánaiste on his evaluation and analysis of the finding of the review group headed by businessman Frank Dolphin. After this meeting, a Government spokesman said the Minister would bring a proposal to Government for decision within two weeks.

The bid by St James’s scored highly because it could offer the “tri-location” with an adult and maternity hospital which international experts say is most ideal for a children’s hospital. The Coombe’s women’s hospital is 600m away from the St James’s campus. The proximity of bus and Luas connections and relative proximity to the M50 were also favourably judged, though doubts remain in political circles about planning and traffic issues.

Connolly claimed to offer the cheapest option for building the new hospital, but the existing adult hospital has fewer specialities than either St James’s or the Mater. Connolly sought to remedy this by linking up with Beaumont and its bid is also supported by the Royal College of Surgeons.

Fingal county manager David O’Connor, in whose area Connolly is located, last night claimed that St James’s involved “significant planning risk” and would have a major impact on the surrounding community.