A doctor leading the new National Maternity Hospital (NMH) project has urged planners to approve the current application which would "significantly elevate" maternity care in Ireland.
Assistant professor Shane Higgins, who works as a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at the NMH, was speaking during the first day of evidence at An Bord Pleanála oral hearing on the HSE's planning application for the facility.
Prof Higgins said the proposed relocation to the St Vincent’s Hospital campus would deliver a “purpose-built”, “state of the art” modern healthcare facility which would meet international needs.
“The physical constraints of the existing NMH site on Holles Street simply cannot accommodate the required upgrade works to bring the hospital up to such contemporary healthcare standards,” he said.
Prof Higgins urged An Bord Pleanála to consider that a primary objective of the new hospital was to ensure that both mothers and babies are provided with a level of care that meets international best practice.
“The current conditions of the clinical areas within the existing maternity hospital are inadequate for the delivery of healthcare by modern standards. Many of the nightingale-style in-patient wards experience higher than recommended occupancy levels, compromise patients’ privacy and dignity whilst also increasing the likelihood of the spread of infections,” he added.
Prof Higgins dismissed suggestions that alternative sites for the hospital, such as the lands at RTÉ, were a better fit. He told the hearing that all the evidence for alternative sites was "unfounded".
Groups representing residents living near the proposed new hospital told the hearing they “agree in principle” to the development, despite having some concerns.
The Nutley Residents Association feel the area is not equipped to deal with the large volume of extra traffic the project would bring.
Planning Consultant Tom Phillips, who represents the Nutley Road Residents Association and the Elm Park Sports Club, told the hearing that there was approximately 300 houses in the catchment area.
He stressed the point that the National Maternity Hospital was “supported in principle” but there were serious “construction-phase concerns” and “operation-phase concerns”.
The planning consultant argued that the new hospital would be 66 per cent bigger than the Ikea store in Ballymun. He expressed concerns over parking in the area which was unable to deal with the overflow of cars from the hospital at present.
Ciarán McKeon, who was speaking on behalf of the Elm Park Sports club, told the hearing of major concerns in relation to “severe and prolonged” evening traffic congestion on Nutley Lane and Merrion Road.
Dr Avril Challoner, an air quality consultant, said “responsible” demolition, construction and mitigation measures could ensure that impacts due to construction phase at “sensitive” would be negligible.
Dr Roger McMorrow, director of anaesthesia at the NMH, read a leader on behalf of his colleagues which said the current situation was “unacceptable , whereby we have to transfer such critically ill women by ambulance from one side to the other or we are simply unable to access the facilities because the mother is too ill to transfer”.
“The new National Maternity Hospital will be a state of the art facility that promotes excellence in obstetric care,” he added.
The hearing continues.