Minister says Government not fixed solely on Mater site


THE GOVERNMENT is not fixed solely on Dublin’s Mater hospital as the site for the new national children’s hospital, Minister for Health Dr James Reilly has claimed.

He said the Cabinet would today agree terms of reference for a review group to look at what options were now available, following the decision by An Bord Pleanála to refuse planning permission for the hospital, as currently designed, at the Mater site.

“There are a lot of possibilities around the size, shape and configuration of the Mater site but I want to make it very clear, we are not wedded to that site. Everything is under consideration and this is a hospital that will stand for 100 years plus and therefore we won’t rush into it,” he said yesterday.

“At the same time we want to do it . . . expeditiously because we believe that our children need the best treatment now – this Government came into office promising to build a new paediatric hospital and that is what we are going to do,” he added.

Dr Reilly said he accepted concerns expressed by some medical academics about proceeding with a scaled-back hospital without research facilities but nobody was proposing to do that as he fully recognised the importance of a research dimension.

“Nobody is talking about scaling back the health research facilities . . . We will build it in the right place with the right facilities and there will be no compromise in relation to patient care, no compromise in relation to health research, education or training.”

Dr Reilly also said the review group, whose terms of reference are to be agreed at Cabinet today, would report back within four weeks of its first meeting on the next steps and best options available. The Mater had been earmarked as the preferred site for the new €650 million National Paediatric Hospital but the plan has been thrown into jeopardy after An Bord Pleanála refused to grant planning permission.

The planning board said it considered the proposed development, “by reason of its height, scale, form and mass, located on this elevated site, would result in a dominant, visually incongruous structure and would have a profound negative impact on the appearance and visual amenity of the city skyline.”

Speaking in Cork where he opened a new Health Research Board clinical research facility at the Mercy University Hospital, Dr Reilly said he had no difficulty with Crumlin children’s hospital’s decision to raise funds for a new cardiac unit now even though a new national children’s hospital is planned.

The Medical and Research Foundation at Crumlin hospital, has launched an appeal for €8 million to help renovate the hospital’s cancer ward and to build a new cardiac facility. Dr Orla Franklin, consultant paediatric cardiologist at the hospital said children were sick “right now”.

“Their illnesses ignore time and circumstances,” she said.

Dr Reilly said he was aware that Crumlin, which treats 130,000 sick children each year, decided to go fundraising in January before the decision on the new National Paediatric Hospital was made but he hoped to expedite the building of the new hospital so that a new cardiac unit for Crumlin would be unnecessary.

With the slogan Sick Children Are Out Of Time, the fundraising campaign, will include national radio, newspaper and billboard advertisements.