Children's hospital group to focus on cost and construction timeframe


THE GOVERNMENT’s expert group on the national children’s hospital will have to take account of the cost and timescale for developing the facility on the various proposed sites.

The terms of reference of the group, approved by the Cabinet yesterday, say it should consider the different options that exist for progressing the €650 million project following the decision by An Bord Pleanála to refuse planning permission at the Mater site.

The terms state the group should inform itself about the planning considerations and processes affecting the project. However, it says in considering the options it should have regard to Government policy on delivery of health services, including accessibility, paediatric services and best clinical practice. It should also bear in mind cost and value for money, as well as likely timelines and risks.

The group has been asked to report to Minister for Health James Reilly within 56 days. Its full membership will be announced next week.

Dr Reilly said yesterday “everything was on the table” as part of the expert group’s deliberations. He said it could look at alternatives to the Mater location, including greenfield sites. He said there were advantages and disadvantages to each of the proposed sites and the expert group should take a hard look at these.

Dr Reilly maintained that co-locating the hospital with an adult hospital was important, as was further “tri-location” with a maternity hospital. He said the research and development elements of the children’s hospital were also important.

“Others may have a different view but my view is very simple. The best experts in the world have nailed their colours to the mast on this in relation to it being co-located and that being an important feature of it.”

The Minister suggested that co-location with an adult hospital would provide sufficient patients to justify the appointment of highly specialised consultants.

A Government spokesman last night said a “considered approach” would be taken and promised there would be no “knee-jerk reaction” to the refusal of planning permission. Later in the Dáil, Dr Reilly made no reference to completing the project within the Government’s lifetime.