Call for change of hospital location


The group which has campaigned for a new children's hospital over the last decade has called on Dr Reilly to move the location of the project from St James's Hospital to the Coombe.

The call came as the board of Temple Street children’s hospital has expressed its concern at the Government’s failure to build a maternity hospital at the same time as the new children’s hospital is being built at St James’s.

The New Children's Hospital Alliance claimed that newborn children could die as a result of the Minister's decision not to locate the facility adjacent to a maternity hospital.

The alliance said today its preference was for a greenfield site with good transport links by the M50, such as that offered by Connolly hospital in Blanchardstown.

However, as a second best, it said the Coombe's offer of 20.5 acres of lands by the South Circular Road offered the best opportunity for co-locating the chlidren's hospital with a maternity hospital.

Alliance spokeswoman Roisin Healy said it "wasn't good enough" for Dr Reilly to say that a maternity would "ultimately" be built beside the children's hospital on the St James's campus.

She pointed out that every year up to 500 seriously ill children have to be transferred to ICU units in children's hospitals. "Undoubtedly, some children will die because they are too ill to be moved in an ambulance. So why put children at risk if they don't need to be."

Opposition by the alliance to the original proposal to site the project at the Mater played a large role in the effective collapse of that bid.

The board, which held an emergency meeting today, said it awaited confirmation from Minister for Health James Reilly on “the maternity hospital offering” at St James’s.

It also re-affirmed its disappointment that the Mater had not been re-selected as the site for the new national children’s hospital. However, the board said it was pleased that a decision had finally been made by the Government.

Meanwhile, the chairs of the medical board of the three existing children’s hospital also urged the Minister to proceed without delay with plans to build a maternity hospital at St James’s.

In a statement, they welcomed the Government decision to build the children’s hospital on the St James’s site but said the facility needed to be tri-located with an adult hospital and a maternity hospital.

The letter was signed by Dr Ciara Martin of the National Children’s Hospital in Tallaght, Dr Stephanie Ryan of Temple Street Children’s University Hospital and Dr Sean Walsh of Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin. It was also signed by Dr Colm Costigan, clinical director of the three Dublin children’s hospital and Prof Alf Nicholson, clinical lead of the HSE’s national paediatric programme.

Dr Reilly yesterday unveiled the long-awaited and much-leaked decision of the Government to award the project to St James’s, though he admitted there was a “moderate” risk the development could suffer the same fate as the Mater by failing to get planning permission.

He declined to say how much the new national children’s hospital will cost, citing commercial sensitivity.

The Mater and Rotunda hospitals expressed extreme disappointment yesterday that the Government had not reselected the Mater after its failed planning application earlier this year.

“The process to select the Mater site was rigorous and evidenced-based and six years of planning have already gone into our site. We could have delivered a new children’s hospital by 2016 but yet the sick children of Ireland now have to wait another 2½ years beyond 2016 for what is their right today,” said Mater chairman John Morgan.

St James’s has said it can build the project for €478 million but Dr Reilly said yesterday this estimate was “tight”. Some €200 million is earmarked for the hospital from the sale of the National Lottery and most of the remaining funds will come from the capital budget.

The decision received a broad welcome from Government and local TDs, while the Opposition urged that the project proceed as speedily as possible. Dr Reilly said it would be completed in 2018, two years after the Taoiseach promised it would be ready and four years after the original completion date.

He promised a new maternity hospital would eventually be built “in time” at St James’s alongside the planned children’s hospital.

Some €26 million of the €39 million spent on the Mater site would not be recouped, Dr Reilly acknowledged.

The Government has told St James’s to provide more land for the children’s hospital so the overall height of the project will not exceed seven storeys.

Meanwhile, businessman Harry Crosbie, chairman of the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board, says he wants to stay on in the position after his term expired next month.

He said the board was not wedded to the Mater site and members were anxious to progress the project no matter where it was built. Up to half of the design work done for the Mater bid could be re-used in planning the building at St James's, he estimated.

Asked about his involvement in Nama, Mr Crosbie declined to comment.

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