Site smallest among options assessed by group


The site proposed by St James’s Hospital as the location for the new national children’s hospital was the smallest considered by the Dolphin review group and was assessed as high-risk in a later planning review.

However, the group chaired by businessman Frank Dolphin found that St James’s had the best range of medical specialties to partner a new children’s hospital. The planning review suggested an enlarged site be used at St James’s, a proposal that was taken up by Government.

The Dolphin group described co-location with an adult hospital as essential and tri-location with adult and maternity hospital as optimal. It found there was no single perfect solution, though some locations were more advantageous than others.

It acknowledged that the Mater proposal had been significantly reworked since An Bord Pleanála rejected an earlier proposal but there was still a concern as to whether the site was sufficiently large.

St James’s Hospital was identified as the hospital that best met the criteria to partner the new project because it had the broadest range of specialties and excellent research and education infrastructure. “However, the proposed St James’s Hospital plan offers the smallest site for construction of the new children’s hospital, albeit with greater site capacity overall.”

The Coombe site was large enough to accommodate the children’s hospital and to allow design flexibility and the two hospitals could be co-located through a link corridor, the report stated. It suggested there were a number of possible solutions to build on the strengths of the St James’s and Coombe proposals if they presented a joint plan.

Connolly hospital in Blanchardstown was found to offer an attractive setting and “practically limitless” scope for future expansion but the group warned that it could take “several decades” for it to achieve high standards of clinical and research excellence.

Planning experts

The group, which included medical and planning experts, said the Minister should establish a board to run the new hospital and to start integrating existing children’s hospital services.

Dr Reilly appointed the review group, chaired by Mr Dolphin, to examine possible locations for the new hospital after a planning application to build the hospital on the Mater site was rejected by An Bord Pleanála last February.

The group was given 70 days to prepare a report, which was submitted to the Minister in June, after which Dr Reilly asked two of its members who are planners, Simon Clear and John Martin, to do a further assessment of the planning issues relating to the main proposals. It was completed in mid-October.

This report found that there was a “significant” planning risk attached to the St James’s proposal to build the children’s hospital on a 2.44 hectare site on the southwest of the campus, near the Rialto gate.

The resulting buildings would also be of excessive height.

However, if the site was enlarged to a minimum of 3.5 hectares, the planning risk could be reduced to “moderate”. St James’s has proposed building a maternity hospital on an adjacent piece of land to the site proposed for the children’s hospital.

The report said a building on this larger site would need to be only six to seven storeys high, as opposed to the nine storeys originally envisaged.

It also said Government acquisition of lands adjacent to the Coombe hospital would significantly enhance planning and development for the Coombe and St James’s and offer a more sustainable future for the entire St James’s campus.

Dolphin Report: Main findings

St James’s has the best range of medical specialties to partner a new children’s hospital

Concerns about the size of the Mater site remain

Connolly hospital in Blanchardstown has plenty of space but it would take several decades to build up standards

Aside from main teaching hospitals, 38 sites were offered

The new childrens hospital should optimally be located beside an adult and a maternity hospital

There is no perfect solution