Supporters of Mater site say hospital can be built faster

Fri, May 4, 2012, 01:00

THE NEW national children’s hospital can be built faster and cheaper on the site of the Mater hospital in Dublin than in any other location, supporters of this site have maintained.

At a briefing in Dublin yesterday, senior figures at the Mater, Temple Street and the Rotunda hospitals gave details of a revised design for the children’s hospital on the Mater site.

This would see the development occupy a wider footprint and be lower than on the original blueprint, which was rejected by An Bord Pleanála several weeks ago.

Supporters of the Mater location said if the Government gave the go-ahead for the new hospital on this site a new application for planning permission could be lodged within four months.

The chairman of the board of governors of the Mater hospital, Donal Walsh, said the development of the national children’s hospital, including a new maternity hospital to replace the Rotunda, could be delivered by 2016.

Under the new design the top six storeys have been removed from the original plan for the Mater site. Mr Walsh said no part of the development would now exceed 11 storeys. Yet the core design remained intact.

To compensate for the loss of the higher storeys, additional space would be provided through the use of the 1861 Mater hospital building on the campus.

Existing services in the 1861 Mater building would be moved to a new Mater hospital building, which is being opened on a phased basis. Under the revised design, education and research rather than clinical facilities would be located in the old Mater building.

The master of the Rotunda hospital, Dr Sam Coulter-Smith, claimed a new national children’s hospital could be developed on the Mater site three years faster than at any other location. The Mater site was “already prepped and ready to go”. The State could lose significant amounts of money by moving the project to another location, given the delays involved.

He also said the development of a maternity hospital on the Mater campus would cost about €130 million. This could be built in parallel with the development of the children’s hospital.

His understanding of the revised plan for the children’s hospital on the Mater campus was that the bill would be less than the original cost estimate of €650 million.

Dr Coulter-Smith said this was partly why “we can look at including the maternity hospital in the new development”.

He said funding options for meeting the cost of the new maternity unit were being explored. The board of the Rotunda hospital had indicated that its property would be put on the table for negotiation. This could involve a sale, a part sale, a lease or a donation to the State.

The chairman of the medical board of the Mater hospital, Prof Brendan Kinsley, said the new adult hospital had been planned with the development of the children’s hospital in mind. He said €23 million had been spent on shared infrastructure that the children’s hospital could use.

He argued that access and parking would not be an issue. No concerns about access had been raised by the ambulance service. Over 1,600 parking spaces would be available ultimately.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the medical board of St James’s Hospital, Dr John Kennedy, said yesterday it would cost €510 million to build the national paediatric hospital and a co-located maternity centre at St James’s Hospital.

The master of the Coombe hospital, Dr Chris Fitzpatrick, said its proposal for the development of the national children’s hospital would cost less than €420 million and it would be unnecessary to build a maternity hospital.

Both were speaking on the Pat Kenny show on RTÉ Radio.