Harris will be ‘responsible for deaths of many children,’ campaigner says

Campaigners call on Minister for Health to move planned children’s hospital site

December 1st, 2015: An animation shows the plans currently in place for the proposed children's hosiptal to be built on the site of the current St James’s Hospital.

 

A claim that children will die unless the site of the planned national children’s hospital is moved has been criticised by TDs.

Members of the Oireachtas health committee expressed concern over the remarks by the Connolly for Kids Hospital group on Thursday.

Minister for Health Simon Harris will be responsible for the deaths of “many children” unless it is moved from St James’s Hospital to Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown, the group told a meeting of the committee.

Fine Gael Senator Colm Burke said it meant by inference that anyone, including the clinical directors of the existing three children’s hospitals in Dublin, would be responsible for deaths.

Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell said the accusation greatly disrespected the doctors involved, while Sinn Féin TD Louise O’Reilly also expressed concern.

The Government’s plans will threaten the viability of the existing adult hospital at St James’s as well as the new project, the group claimed.

The government decided in 2012 to build the €710 million project at St James’s, after an earlier plan to build it at the Mater was rejected on planning grounds. Planning permission was granted earlier this year and the site is being cleared.

Speaking on Thursday at the Oireachtas health committee, Valerin O’Shea, for Connolly for Kids Hospital, described the decision to locate the new hospital at St James’s as “gravely mistaken” and “flawed from the start”.

“We want to expose the ongoing political sham of trying to defend the indefensible.

“We know this hospital will fail – with terrible consequences. If you allow it to happen, you will share responsibility for those consequences.”

Everyone except members of a medical and academic “inner circle” and some politicians were opposed to the project and recognised the scale of the “disaster” to come, she said.

She called on Mr Harris to “flip” the site of the children’s hospital at St James’s with the planned urgent care centre at Blanchardstown.

“If the Minister fails to do so he should know with certainty that he will be responsible for the deaths of many children and the avoidable anguish of countless parents – your constituents, who will not forget that the blame for this decision cannot be parked at the door of An Bord Pleanála.

The group claims Connolly hospital has far greater room for a children’s hospital and can be built for €200 million less than at St James’s.

John Pollock, who leads the team building the hospital, said there was enough room at St James’s to build the children’s hospital, a planned maternity hospital and another children’s hospital if it were needed.

He said significant progress had been made in advancing the project and the bids for constructing the building were due in on Friday.

The Government will decide early in the new year on awarding the contract and the hospital is due to open in 2020.

Chairman Dr Michael Harty stressed the committee did not have the power to influence the decision but promised a transcript of the proceedings will be forwarded to the Minister.