National children’s hospital site preparation to start in June

Construction to start after demolition of old buildings, with opening planned for 2020

Work on building the new national children’s hospital at St James’s Hospital in Dublin will start in June with the clearance of existing buildings on the site.

The hospital will open its doors in 2020, two years after two satellite centres for treating children in Blanchardstown and Tallaght are ready, according to the team planning the €710 million project.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar led an effusive official reaction to the decision by An Bord Pleanála to grant a 10-year planning permission, subject to 17 relatively minor conditions.

Mr Varadkar described it as “absolutely fantastic news” and promised the project would be funded and built by 2020 “short of an asteroid hitting the planet”.

Children’s Hospital Group chief executive Eilísh Hardiman, charged with amalgamating the three Dublin children’s hospitals, termed the board’s decision “a watershed day for children”.

Jonathan Irwin, founder of the Jack & Jill Children's Foundation, expressed disappointment but said it had to be accepted. "We've made our point. We've done our best. We lost. And now we've got to move on."

Alternative sites

The Connolly for Kids Hospital Group, which supports building the project in Blanchardstown, called on the Government to change the location to the Connolly hospital campus.

The board confirmed the decision of planning inspector Tom Rabbette in favour of the project.

Staff at St James’s Hospital will be banned from using designated patient car parking spaces at the new children’s hospital on the site, under a condition imposed by the board when granting planning permission.

The 675 spaces reserved for patients and visitors must not be used by St James’s staff between 7am and 7pm, Monday to Saturday, according to the board. The aim is to avoid traffic congestion and ensure parking is available.

The board has also required that 20 “parent and child” parking spaces be reserved for parents of children with specific needs such as medical equipment, and that this extra allocation be taken from the staff car parking allocation.

The board’s decision follows a three-week oral hearing last November which heard submissions from designers of the new facility and complaints from local residents and children’s charities who did not want the development at St James’s.

Consolidation of services

Completion of the new facility will lead to the closure of Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin, the existing National Children’s Hospital in Tallaght and Temple Street children’s hospital, and the consolidation of paediatric services at the St James’s site. The new children’s hospital will also operate new satellite campuses in Blanchardstown and Tallaght.

Construction is set to begin this summer with the clearance of existing buildings on the site at the Rialto end of the St James’s campus. The new building will be seven storeys, with 380 single inpatient rooms and 42 critical care beds.

The plan to build the hospital at St James’s was strongly opposed by a number of groups, including the Jack & Jill Foundation and the New Children’s Hospital Alliance led by retired consultants.

They argued access, traffic and space were major drawbacks at St James’s and proposed the hospital should be built on a greenfield site adjacent to Connolly Hospital.

The conditions set by the planning inspector are minor for a project of this size. The developers must submit details of their plans for traffic and car parking, and for moving the Drimnagh sewer on the site.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times