Cowen insists children's hospital will go ahead


Taoiseach Brian Cowen said today the National Children's Hospital will proceed as planned despite the reservations expressed by the former chairman of the board, who resigned earlier this month.

Philip Lynch last night said he stepped down over significant and fundamental differences with Minister for Health Mary Harney.

She has maintained she requested Mr Lynch’s resignation as it was not in his remit to revisit the Government decision on the location of the facility.

Speaking to reporters in Dublin today, Mr Cowen said he supported Ms Harney’s stance. “The chairman had certain views which the Minister discussed with him,” he said. “The Minister made her decision in the interest of proceeding with the project."

He said the plans to build the hospital would proceed as planned.

“Those who are closest to paediatrics, to the provision of necessary services for children, are supportive,” the Taoiseach said. “As I’ve explained 24 of the last 25 such projects world wide have been integrated into adult hospital situations.”

Mr Cowen also rejected Mr Lynch’s concerns over funding for the €650 million project, despite €110 million still being needed from philanthropy and fundraising.

Construction of the new facility, which will merge the three children’s hospitals - Temple Street, Crumlin and Tallaght - on Eccles Street, could start as early as next year. The new hospital is due to be built by 2015.

The head of Temple Street Children’s Hospital today backed the controversial decision to build the hospital on the Mater campus. Opponents have warned of difficulties the north inner city Dublin site will pose with access, traffic and limited space.

Donal Walsh said the chairmen of the three national children’s hospitals continue to work together to advance the new hospital project, adding that Mr Lynch had departed from the mandate he was given.

“The new hospital is hugely important and a necessary initiative for Ireland and the healthcare of Irish children,” said Mr Walsh. “It is imperative to combine the services of the three existing national paediatric hospitals.

“The new Children’s Hospital of Ireland will be at the centre of a national paediatric network, linked to regional and local hospitals and to primary and community services.”

Last night Mr Lynch, who resigned on October 5th, broke his silence to warn of funding gaps and planning and design challenges at the controversial Mater Hospital site.

In a statement, Mr Lynch said that among the substantive range of issues on which he and the Minister disagreed were a substantial gap in the level of funding available for the project, and planning and design challenges at the Mater site. He said that other issues included “clarity or absence of governance proposals for the new hospital”.

He said: “It is my opinion that if the above issues are not addressed, the successful delivery of the new hospital, wherever it is located, is at serious risk.”

However, in a statement last night, Ms Harney said: “In requesting the resignation of Mr Philip Lynch as chairman, I made it clear that it is not in the remit of the development board to revisit the Government decision taken on the location of the new hospital.

"The development of the hospital at the Mater campus remains a priority for the Government and it is important now that we all focus on making it happen rather than attempting to revisit the decisions of the past.

Dr James Reilly, Fine Gael health spokesman, called for a rethink of the plans. “The numbers never seemed to add up but Philip Lynch’s statement has cast grave doubt on their credibility,” Dr Reilly said. “It also confirms the issues around the difficulties of planning at such a limited site.”