Coombe suggests 'viable and achievable' alternative site plan


THE COOMBE Women and Infants University Hospital in Dublin has put forward a “viable and achievable” alternative plan for the national children’s hospital on an “immediately available” site off South Circular Road.

According to Dr Chris Fitzpatrick, master of the Coombe hospital, the plan would achieve “unequivocal tri-location of paediatric, maternity and adult services”, thereby fulfilling all of the criteria of the 2006 McKinsey Report, which recommended such an approach.

He pointed out that new-born babies were “most at risk of dying” so it made sense to have the children’s hospital close to a major maternity hospital.

There were also plans for a national school nearby that could cater for the needs of chronically ill children.

The 20.5-acre site, which adjoins the Coombe Hospital, comprises the disused Player Wills cigarette factory, the Bailey Wilson scrap metal salvage site next door and the derelict Boys’ Brigade playing fields, which are now in the ownership of Dublin City Council.

Plans by Bee Bee Developments Ireland Ltd and the Walls Group to redevelop the Player Wills and Bailey Gibson site for a major mixed residential scheme up to eight storeys in height were approved in 2008 but didn’t proceed because of the crash.

Gerry Cahill Architects, who designed the Players Square development, have produced plans showing how a children’s hospital of 108,000sq m could fit on the site, without going higher than seven storeys, and which would be at least 20 metres from nearby houses.

The curvaceous building “will create a warm and welcoming, child-friendly world with high-quality, well-ventilated daylit spaces, landscaped courts, gardens and terraces”, with parking for up to 1,000 cars on two levels in the basement below.

Mr Cahill said one of its main advantages was that the site “is well-positioned in the context of principal regional and national routes . . . without traversing the city centre core”.

The Players Square scheme has also been subjected to traffic analysis for site access.

The proposed children’s hospital “can be built economically on this site”, Dr Fitzpatrick said. “At seven storeys and with two basement levels, it does not require complicated building methodology [and] there are also no building site constraints.

“Together with the less complex nature of the building process and the absence of constraints, the time taken on site can be greatly reduced. Post all approvals, it is estimated that this building . . . could be complete in approximately 42 months,” he said.

Dr Fitzpatrick said “due cognisance” had been taken of the work carried out to date on rejected plans to develop the children’s hospital on the Mater site and it is expected that some of the €35 million spent to date would be “transferable” to the Coombe proposal.

He said this proposal was being put forward “in a spirit of collegiality, inclusiveness and transparency” and had been given to Minister for Health James Reilly, the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board and other interested parties for consideration.

“These lands are immediately available and future-proofed for expansion,” he said. This was in the context of a future plan to “decant” nearby St Teresa’s Gardens “in the context of the wider redevelopment of the Dolphin’s Barn/Coombe area”.

The site is “easily accessible from all sides”, from the city road network, he said, adding that it also lies “within 400 metres of St James’s Hospital” and the Tallaght Luas line that connects with both Heuston and Connolly mainline railway stations.

Separate to this site proposal, Dr Fitzpatrick said, “there is an expressed willingness from a sovereign wealth fund [which he did not name] to engage in the procurement, development and construction of this project that merits independent assessment”.

The Coombe Hospital believes there would also be a “lot of interest” from multinational companies in developing a biomedical research facility on the site, and this would “drive innovation in patient healthcare and efficiencies in health service provision”.

Together with the children’s hospital and, ultimately, an upgraded or redeveloped maternity hospital (the existing Coombe building dates from 1967), the proposal would contribute to urban regeneration in an area of Dublin that badly needs it, according to the promoters.