The Rotunda Hospital has drawn up revised plans for the development of a four-storey block on Dublin's Parnell Square to ease overcrowding at the historic facility.
The hospital says it urgently needs a decision on the plan to provide additional neonatal and post-natal beds on the site in order to mitigate the risk of infection and injury to newborns.
While the Rotunda is slated for a move to a greenfield site at Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown, its master Prof Fergal Malone says this could take up to 15 years to happen so "interim" measures are needed at its current location to reduce overcrowding.
The hospital has “toned down” the original plans for development at Parnell Square, after it was suggested they flew in the face of official Government policy to move the historic institution to the Connolly site by the M50.
Prof Malone said carparking has been dropped in the revised plan, which will have only one underground floor instead of the two originally envisaged.
Describing the proposal as “relatively small”, he said the €49 million price estimate “includes everything” and was equivalent to the cost of “two or three adverse medicolegal awards”.
The plan has already been discussed with Dublin city manager Owen Keegan and was the subject of favourable feedback, he added.
Prof Malone said he hopes to meet Minister for Health Simon Harris shortly about the hospital's revised plans to develop the Parnell Square site. "We need to get this done. We need a decision on this."
At present, up to 11 women and their babies are being accommodated in the one ward in the 274-year-old building, with just two toilets between them, he pointed out.
“The dignity of patients doesn’t seem to resonate with decision-makers, for whom it’s all about risk and mortality, and euros. But dignity does matter.”
The cost of moving the Rotunda to Connolly is currently estimated at €300 million, but Prof Malone pointed out that necessary upgrading of the clinical care programme at Connolly to bring it up to the standard of the other major Dublin hospitals will cost another €150 million.
“Connolly is effectively a community hospital and the only way to make it safe for us is to upgrade their clinical services. But that’s going to take time.”
He suggested a reconfiguration of Dublin’s adult hospitals may first be needed, given the fact that five existing hospitals are providing critical care services. “If you came down from Mars tomorrow and landed in Dublin you would not put six adult hospitals in Dublin.”
If the Rotunda was moved to Connolly without these changes, the maternity hospital would still have to transport critically ill mothers back to the Mater Hospital for treatment, he warned.
The plan to move the Rotunda was announced by then minister for health Leo Varadkar in 2015 but Prof Malone said "no progress" has been made in advancing the project since then, apart from some drawings.
The number of babies born at the Rotunda grew by 1 per cent last year, according to the hospital’s 2018 clinical report, and has grown by another 1 per cent this year. A total of 8,358 mothers delivered 8,514 babies last year.
At the moment, he said, there seemed to be “no appetite” for providing these additional services.