Childcare charity seeks rethink of St James’s site choice

Irwin says essential co-location for children’s hospital with maternity hospital

The Jack and Jill Foundation, which provides support for parents of extremely sick children, is opening a petition calling for the site of the new national children’s hospital to be moved from St James’s Hospital.

The charity says it will campaign to have the project moved after hundreds of parents attending its family fun day in Dublin at the weekend expressed near-unanimous opposition to the St James’s site.

Chief executive Jonathan Irwin said the refusal of the Government to countenance moving the project to a better site was similar to its failure for many months to see the problems caused by the removal of medical cards.

Mr Irwin urged the Government to reconsider “before it is too late”. “If ever this Government needed to take stock and listen to the views of parents of sick children regarding the location of the national children’s hospital, it is now. Surely common sense must prevail before we sleepwalk into another costly mistake for the taxpayer.”

The only point in favour of St James’s was its proximity to public transport, but most children arrived to hospital by car, he said. The essential co-location for a children’s hospital was with a maternity hospital, not an adult hospital, he added.

The Department of Health announced last week that the project brief for the hospital had been approved and a design team was to be appointed shortly.

The chief executive of the Children's Hospital Group, Eilish Hardiman, said St James's represented the "best outcome" for children and enjoyed the "clear and unanimous" support of the existing three Dublin children's hospitals.

She said the kind of services envisaged for the hospital could only be provided by co-location with an adult hospital such as St James’s, because of the scale and number of medical specialties involved.The St James’s site was twice the size of the site at the Mater which was rejected on planning grounds, according to Ms Hardiman.

Responding yesterday, Mr Irwin said St James’s did not have neurology or transplant services. It was only in the area of burns treatment that co-location of a children’s and adult hospital made sense, he claimed. St James’s would only be able to provide a site of suitable size by “bulldozing” existing buildings.

The Jack and Jill Foundation favours building the project on a greenfield site at Blanchardstown or, if an inner-city location is preferred, co-locating it alongside the Coombe maternity hospital.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times