The new chairman of St James’s Hospital says those opposing the new location of the proposed National Children’s Hospital need to “shut up” and “move on with it”.
In his first public appearance since being announced chairman designate of the Dublin hospital, Paul Donnelly told an Oireachtas health committee that St James's is an "exceptionally well-run" hospital that stands to benefit from a consolidation of paediatric, adult and maternity services on the one campus.
Following ill-fated attempts to establish a children’s hospital on the Mater campus, planners elected to move the proposed development across the Liffey to St James’s.
Several unforeseen delays later, resident groups beside the hospital have criticised the plans and are expected to lodge several appeals with An Bórd Pleanála in the coming months in order to obstruct the move.
In light of this latest dispute, Mr Donnelly said the process should move along swiftly in order to provide top-class medical care to the nation’s children.
“I echo Senator [John] Crown’s comments that we have to shut up, get on . . . move on with it. We’ve made that choice and we have to move on, we cannot procrastinate,” he said of the project, due for completion in 2019.
“I said a decision needed to be made where we should all support it being in the one place, and once that place was picked everybody should just shut up and do it; and that’s exactly how I feel now,” said Senator Crown, who is a consultant oncologist.
“I just feel we should get on and build the darn thing and not condemn our children to additional years of substandard accommodation where their care is being delivered,” he added.
While displaying some level of understanding regarding her constituents' concerns, local Fine Gael TD Catherine Byrne said building should start without further delay.
“There is rumblings on the ground, there is rumblings locally with residents and concerns. And we all understand them and hopefully they can all be dealt with very carefully.
“I’m hoping that we’re not going to have to climb every mountain when it goes into planning in July because I think it’s a real opportunity to have the expertise, the facilities and, above all for people who have children who are very ill, not having to be shifting them from one end of the country to the other,” she said.
Laying out his ambitions for his tenure as chairman of St James’s, Mr Donnelly said there are many “challenges, opportunities and priorities” to be dealt with over the coming period. And he stressed that the care needs of the hospital’s “ageing and frequently deprived local community” must continue to be met.
He also voiced a frustration with the “unfortunate liability and litigation culture” that exists within the Irish healthcare sector, and said he would welcome an overall review of how clinical mistakes and subsequent complaints are dealt with.