Decision on children's hospital next week


THE GOVERNMENT will not make a final decision on the location of the new national children’s hospital until next week’s Cabinet meeting because a required meeting involving the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Minister for Health on the matter has not yet taken place.

On October 6th, Minister for Health James Reilly said he would bring the finding on the best location for the hospital to Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore within 10 days, and that a Cabinet decision would take place shortly afterwards.

However, some seven days after the target date has passed the meeting between the three senior Government figures has not yet taken place.

The reason given yesterday was that Mr Kenny has spent much of the last seven days travelling – he has been in Bucharest, Brussels and Paris – and scheduling the meeting on the location of the hospital was not possible.

A Department of Health spokesman said that holding the meeting between the three senior Ministers was a prerequisite before the wider Cabinet could make its final decision.

As that meeting has not taken place, said the spokesman, the issue would not come up for decision when Ministers meet this morning.

The Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Mr Reilly are now expected to meet later this week, with the Cabinet expected to give approval to the preferred location next Tuesday.

There has been speculation that both the site originally chosen at the Mater hospital and the other city centre location, St James’s Hospital, may have fallen out of favour, with Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown and a site in north Dublin, Belcamp, both coming into strong contention.

Belcamp is located in Dr Reilly’s constituency. If it were chosen it might prove difficult for both Government parties, especially Labour, to defend it in light of the the controversy surrounding the selection of two towns in north Dublin for priority primary care centres.

A review group was set up to present the Government with options for the location of the new national children’s hospital after An Bord Pleanála turned down the planning application for the Mater site.

An earlier report recommended that the hospital be located next to a full teaching hospital and a maternity hospital, factors that might play against both Connolly hospital and Belcamp (which is a greenfield site).

However, if chosen, it is thought Belcamp would have strong links with Beaumont Hospital.

When asked this month if the hospital would be built by 2016, Dr Reilly said he still hoped the project would be completed within that timeframe.

On the choice of hospital, 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.”

Part of the funding for the new hospital will come from the sale of the National Lottery, which some say could yield upwards of €400 million for the State. Preparations for the sale, which are being overseen by Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin, are at an advanced stage.

The location of the children’s hospital has been controversial and has sharply divided views within the medical profession and among paediatric specialists attached to the existing children’s hospitals in Crumlin and Temple Street.

Mr Gilmore will also brief today’s meeting on how plans are advancing for Ireland’s forthcoming presidency of the EU.

Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald will give an update on progress in the children’s referendum campaign, while Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte will give a briefing on progress in the switch over from analogue to digital television.