'Scoring system needed' for assessing site options


NATIONAL CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL:THE REVIEW group examining sites for the national children’s hospital needs to have a “transparent and logical scoring system when assessing all the options”, according to Dr Jonathan Irwin, chief executive of the Jack and Jill Foundation.

“This is not about making a speedy decision – it’s about making the right decision,” he said, following a report in The Irish Times yesterday that the Mater hospital site in Dublin is “back on the table” along with 15 other possible locations.

Dr Irwin said in a statement: “We’ve got to have the right people around the table sharing their experiences and opening up the debate into community care for sick children, which is nine times less expensive than hospital care.”

The Jack and Jill Foundation, which provides home nursing care for young children with brain damage, is seeking a meeting with the review group – chaired by former Health Service Executive chairman Frank Dolphin – to outline its concerns.

Retired paediatric consultant Dr Roisín Healy of the New Children’s Hospital Alliance, which has opposed the Mater site, said the latest plans for it should be examined along with other sites, with a proper scoring system to assess them.

But master of the Rotunda hospital Dr Sam Coulter-Smith said the Mater site had passed previous independent reviews.

“The only reason why it ran into trouble was height and density issues and we feel that this new plan answers both of those issues.”

On RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, he wouldn’t comment on reports that the Sisters of Mercy – owners of the Mater – had agreed to cede the original hospital building to the State so that it could accommodate some of the facilities planned for the children’s hospital.

“I can’t go into a huge amount of detail,” Dr Coulter-Smith said. But he confirmed that the Rotunda and Temple Street Children’s University Hospital were working with the Mater to present a new plan, with adult, paediatric and maternity facilities on the one site.

He said the Rotunda hospital faced “serious capacity issues”, with close to 10,000 babies due to be delivered this year. “We desperately need a bigger and better facility to provide that service . . . and the best opportunity is to link into this new development.”

The latest plan, by reducing the height and density of the proposed children’s hospital rejected by An Bord Pleanála, would make the Mater the “pre-eminent site for this development [that’s] hugely important for all of us, and we’re working very closely to achieve this.”

Sinn Féin health spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said: “The priority is to get the hospital built, whatever the site. No site is perfect.

“The Government must also support the three existing children’s hospitals which are seriously struggling at present.”

Independent Dublin North Central TD Finian McGrath said: “I welcome the offer from the Sisters of Mercy of a new children’s hospital site.

“We all need to stop the windbagging and spinning and put sick children first. This proposal should be looked at very seriously.”

However, Dr Enda Murphy, lecturer in planning at University College Dublin and co-author of a report in 2006 on access to Tallaght, the Mater and St James’s hospitals, said on RTÉ’s News at One, that the Tallaght site “would be more accessible to 83 per cent of the population”.

The Mater was to have been served by Metro North, but this has now been postponed indefinitely.

Whether it or some other location was chosen, Dr Murphy said a new accessibility study – based on the travel patterns revealed in Census 2011 – should now be done.