New concerns over children’s hospital site

An Taisce calls for site to be moved from St James’s Hospital to land near Coombe

St James’s Hospital in Dublin. An Taisce says the “apparent failure” to co-locate the proposed new national children’s hospital  with a maternity hospital, as recommended in a number of expert reports, “sends alarm bells ringing”. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

St James’s Hospital in Dublin. An Taisce says the “apparent failure” to co-locate the proposed new national children’s hospital with a maternity hospital, as recommended in a number of expert reports, “sends alarm bells ringing”. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

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An Taisce has called on the Government to move the site for the proposed new national children’s hospital from St James’s Hospital to land beside the Coombe Hospital nearby.

In a letter to Taoiseach Enda Kenny, the group warns that the Government is “sleepwalking” into a situation where the new hospital won’t be co-located with a maternity hospital.

It says the project could fall foul of planning laws by failing to provide for co-location with a maternity hospital, leading to further delays.

“Unless action is taken now, this reality will only be brought home to the wider public as the planning process unfolds – a time when it is too late to remedy the problem,” the letter from An Taisce policy director James Nix states.

One year ago, the Government announced that the children’s hospital, the biggest capital project to be undertaken during its term in office, is to be built at St James’s.

The much-delayed project was originally supposed to be built at the Mater Hospital in Dublin’s north city, but this plan changed after planning permission was refused.

Sick babies
However, even after the hospital is built at St James’s, an average of 500 very sick babies would have be transported by ambulance from maternity hospitals for treatment in the children’s hospital.

Over 40 paediatricians from Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin said last year it was critical to locate the new project next to a maternity hospital where such high-risk babies could be delivered.

Minister for Health James Reilly says the new hospital, which the Programme for Government committed to building by 2016, will now be ready in 2018.

An Taisce says the “apparent failure” to co-locate the children’s hospital with a maternity hospital, as recommended in a number of expert reports, “sends alarm bells ringing”.

“To fail to provide for maternity co-location would be to engage in project splitting. Project splitting would, in turn, fall foul of basic requirements set out in Irish and European planning law, bringing about a repeat of the previous delay all over again.”

An Taisce says Mr Kenny can “steer the project on to the right course” by extending the Government’s decision of last November to the entire Dublin Midlands hospital group which includes St James’s and the Coombe and moving the project to a 15-acre site adjacent to the Coombe.

It says this land, which is controlled by Nama and Dublin City Council, offers outstanding benefits for co-locating with the maternity hospital in the Coombe.

The land is larger than the site available at St James’s, has more access points and would allow for vital space to be preserved at St James’s for the expansion of cancer facilities there, Mr Nix argues.

‘Unpardonable’
“It would be unpardonable to find out in five or 10 years’ time that there remained insufficient space left for a maternity hospital; hence the need to right the course now, rather than run a clear risk.”

The new hospital will bring together the three existing Dublin children’s hospitals at Crumlin, Tallaght and Temple Street. Eilish Hardiman started work as chief executive of the Children’s Hospital Group on Friday and work has started to decant existing activities on the site at the west end of St James’s in order to make way for the new building.

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