Children's hospital to open in 2015

 

The chief executive of the development board of the new national children’s hospital has refused to be drawn on the controversy surrounding the resignation of the board's chairman Philip Lynch.

Eilísh Hardiman said she didn't know why he resigned and that she was not privy to that information.

It is understood Mr Lynch resigned last week over concerns about a gap in funding for the new hospital, as well as fresh anxieties about the controversial decision to locate the hospital on the campus of Dublin's Mater hospital.

Ms Hardiman said the board, set up in 2007 to design and build the new hospital into which the existing three children’s hospitals in Dublin will be merged, was a cohesive unit which strongly supported the project.

Asked if it would be better if Mr Lynch explained why he resigned, she said that was a matter for him. He has not commented so far.

Minister for Health Mary Harney also refused to comment today on the reasons behind his resignation, saying speculation around it would not be helpful.

Ms Hardiman said the new hospital at Eccles Street in Dublin will open by 2015 at the earliest. However, this hinges on planning permission being granted by An Bord Pleanála.

The hospital will cost €650 million, some €100 million less than was estimated 18 months ago due to current market conditions.

She said the exchequer had committed €400 million to the project and a further €50 million had been committed in the HSE's capital plan for the construction of an urgent care centre in Tallaght to cater for the needs of children requiring emergency services in south Dublin after the new hospital opens.

She said she was confident a further €110 million would come from philanthropy and fundraising and that €90 million would come from private clinics, retail units, a car park with up to 1,000 spaces, as well as from research and education grants.

She conceded none of the €110 million had yet been raised. She said it would not have been appropriate to start fundraising before planning permission had been received.

Ms Hardiman told a press briefing in Dublin there would never be total consensus in the medical community about the plans for the new hospital but she said the vast majority of paediatricians supported it.

However, Dr Roisin Healy, a member of the faculty of paediatrics at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland disputes this. She said her group - The New Children's Hospital Alliance - would continue to object to the project and its likely they will do so at the An Bord Pleanála oral hearing on the development when that takes place.

Meanwhile Ms Hardiman said some 140,000 sq m were available at the Mater Hospital site on Eccles Street for the development. The children’s hospital will be built on 112,000 sq m, a maternity hospital in due course will be built on 25,000 sq m, leaving spare capacity for expansion in the future.

She said locating all these facilities on one site would provide better outcomes for children.

The new hospital will have 445 inpatient and day beds, with the needs of children up to 2021 provided for. Not all the beds will open immediately as the peak demand for them will not be reached for a number of years, Ms Hardiman said.

She also confirmed all beds will be in single ensuite rooms and said the new hospital would be a "world class" facility.

There will also be accommodation for parents to stay with their children overnight, including facilities for families of long stay patients. At present, parents often have to sleep on the floor when their children are in hospital.

Commenting on today's announcement, Labour's Jan O’Sullivan criticised the delay in the hospital's opening date.

“This is just the latest in a litany of missed deadlines, broken promises and disappointments surrounding this project,” the health spokeswoman said. “The entire project has been badly handled by the health minister and by the former and current Government.”

Ms O’Sullivan questioned how a shortfall in funding for the hospital could be met from commercial sources during the current economic climate.