Inner-city hospital could scare children, say Connolly backers


CHILDREN COULD be frightened by attending the planned national children’s hospital if it is located in Dublin’s inner city, according to the backers of a proposal to build the facility at Connolly Hospital Blanchardstown.

They also argue that siting the project in a cramped location risks a rerun of the fiasco of the M50, which was built with too few lanes and eventually had to be widened.

Dr Trevor Duffy, clinical director of Connolly hospital, said children’s needs were being lost in the debate about where to site the project. “The most important thing for children facing the prospect of going to hospital is that they’re not afraid. This comes down to the particular skill of a child doctor, but also to the environment in which they find themselves.

“The kind of environment around city-centre locations can be frightening for children. You have to provide safety and security for them.” Prof Cathal Kelly, chief executive of the Royal College of Surgeons, which is backing the Connolly bid, said children could be scarred for life by their experience in hospital and it was therefore important they were not treated in “an alien tower”.

Connolly, which has access to 150 acres of land adjacent to the hospital and the M50, is planning a low-rise hospital set in parkland.

Dr Duffy said cost should be critical in determining where the project was built. Connolly says it is able to build it for €130 million cheaper than the next dearest proposal, leaving enough money to develop a maternity hospital in addition to the children’s hospital. It claims a third-party review of the costings of the various proposals has confirmed this.

It points out that under current recommendations the Dublin maternity hospitals should be moved anyway, with the Rotunda due to relocate to wherever the children’s hospital is built.

Prof Kelly warned against “squandering” public money by building “another M50 with just four lanes, when six were always needed”.

“You can move the specialists as you wish but once you turn the sod you can’t move the hospital. And if you’re in the wrong location, you’ll never make it right,” he said.

Connolly claims its running costs will be lower than others’ which will have to spend more on heating, lighting and ventilation of underground sections.

Though Connolly is a smaller hospital than St James’s or the Mater with fewer medical specialties, its backers argue that these specialties would inevitably move to the hospital were it to be selected.

It is also claimed to be the only option with unrestricted parking spaces, an important consideration given that 90 per cent of users will arrive by car and half will come from outside Dublin.

Building on the Connolly site would probably be allowed on a 24/7 basis, whereas restrictions are likely to apply in more built-up areas. If Connolly is selected, its backers say, the new hospital could be ready by autumn 2016.

The New Hospital Alliance,which has campaigned on the issue over the past six years, said it would not support any proposal that did not involve immediate co-location with a maternity hospital. The Cabinet is due to decide on the project within 10 days.