Consultants warn Reilly over children's hospital site


MINISTER FOR Health James Reilly is on a collision course with medical specialists over the expected selection of Connolly Hospital Blanchardstown as the location for the new national children’s hospital.

Dr Reilly said at the weekend he would bring the long-awaited decision on the hospital to the Taoiseach and Tánaiste in the next 10 days and a Cabinet decision was likely to follow shortly after.

However, consultants working in Dublin’s existing three children’s hospitals have warned Dr Reilly, in a letter seen by The Irish Times, against locating a new hospital away from adult and maternity facilities.

Separately, the master of the Rotunda maternity hospital, Dr Sam Coulter-Smith, expressed concern last week that the decision on the project was becoming a political rather than a clinical one.

Blanchardstown is seen as the favourite to win not only because it can offer to build the project on a greenfield site with fewer planning difficulties but also because it is located in the constituency of Ministers Joan Burton and Leo Varadkar.

Another greenfield site, at Belcamp in north Dublin, which is in Dr Reilly’s constituency, has also featured strongly in speculation.

In contrast, bids on two established hospital sites, at the Mater and St James’s, are said to have fallen out of contention. Dr Reilly appointed a review group to consider the options after An Bord Pleanála rejected an earlier planning application to build the hospital at the Mater last February but its report has been with the Minister for four months.

Last month, medical board chairs of the three existing children’s hospitals – Our Lady’s in Crumlin, Temple Street and the National Children’s Hospital in Tallaght – wrote to Dr Reilly urging him to build the hospital as soon as possible. The authors stress the importance of tri-locating the project with a major maternity hospital and a major adult teaching hospital with the “presence and depth” of the more than 25 specialties a new children’s hospital would need.

This is an implied criticism of the bids from Blanchardstown and Belcamp. Connolly Hospital is a teaching hospital but it has fewer specialties than the Mater or St James’s. However, it is planning a link-up with the Royal College of Surgeons and Beaumont Hospital.

Belcamp is a completely greenfield site, though future link-ups with Beaumont are also envisaged.

The letter, which was written on behalf of consultants at the three hospitals, says the new project will have to be on an adult campus “capable of delivering care at a high level across the maximum of specialties possible”.

Meanwhile, in Galway at the weekend, when asked if the project would still be completed by the original 2016 timeframe, Dr Reilly replied that “hope springs eternal”. Asked whether he would be promoting a particular location he said: “The methodology around the choice of this will be robust and will be open for all to be examined, and that will be seen.”