Site for new children's hospital

 

Madam, – I think it is high time the naysayers found a new horse to flog. Minister for Health Mary Harney has said the new National Children’s Hospital will be built on the Mater site. As she rightly points out, no matter where the hospital is located, people will complain.

The latest and most ridiculous suggestion I have read was that parents would not be able to find the hospital in an emergency. Well, it’s quite simple. Turn right off the M50 on to the M1 and drive in a straight line to Dorset Street, then turn right at Eccles Street.

Thank God no one suggested building it in Beaumont hospital, as I’m sure someone would have objected on grounds that an airplane might drop out of the sky onto it. (For those who don’t know, Beaumont hospital is right under one of the approaches to Dublin airport).

Everything is now in place. Every day we delay is a day wasted in delivering the promised centre of excellence for all our children. Get on with it! – Yours, etc,

ANDREW CALLAGHAN,

Whitethorn Grove,

Artane, Dublin 5.

Madam, – I wish to return to the important issue of site selection for the National Children’s Hospital.

The concern expressed by many of your readers was that the selection process to date has not been transparently fair and reasonable. Also it has not illustrated that the primary selection criteria have been based on the interests of sick children.

I should again restate a personal vested interest in that I am the project manager (on a not-for-profit basis) for an alternative site to the Mater.

I have been somewhat surprised that the professionals who chose the Mater site have not seen fit to explain the governing logic for their selection but up until now I had assumed that the basis for their selection could be “teased out” in the planning process.

However, it now emerges that the law has very recently been altered to allow this project to proceed down the strategic infrastructure planning route rather than the conventional planning route – the Planning Development (Amendment) Act 2010 was signed into law on July 26th and the particular provisions governing healthcare facilities will come into force on September 28th. This unorthodox approach might not be considered to be sufficiently transparent.

Given that the An Bord Pleanála hearing will necessarily have to evaluate the adequacy of the “consideration of alternatives” process, it seems that now is the time to seek to establish the maximum possible level of consensus between the various “stakeholders” in regard to site selection.

Perhaps the means by which such consensus might be achieved is for all of the interested parties to join in arranging a symposium – to be addressed by an agreed range of international and national experts and to be attended by a selected list of interested parties – in advance of any Bord Pleanála hearing. – Yours, etc,

TOM WALSHE,

Bagnelstown,

Co Carlow.

Madam, – Your readers might be interested in the following estimates of the cost of building hospitals which is taken from the Department of Health and Children interim report entitled Value for Money and Policy Review of the Economic Cost and Charges Associated with Private and Semi-Private Treatment Services in Public Hospitals, December 2009.

“The Department’s Hospital Planning Office (HPO) previously developed cost per bed estimates which were said to assume that the developments were on ‘green-field’ sites with normal ground conditions, ample space for normal development and surface level car parking, reasonable access to nearby services and unhindered site access. The HPO concluded that acute hospitals also vary significantly in cost per bed depending on the mix of specialties and teaching requirements and pointed out that inner city locations can also add dramatically to the construction costs.”

The total cost of building and equipping each hospital bed is €828,456 at 2009 prices, the report tells us.

The new children’s hospital will have 399 beds, equal to a total expected project cost in the region of €330 million. This is less than half of the €750 million we are told the new hospital will cost. That this is almost a 130 per cent addition to the department’s interim report expected cost is stunningly dramatic.

Could the Taoiseach and Minister for Finance please take control of this madness?

We are in the middle of a sickening recession. Green-field sites are available near the M50 that will be significantly cheaper to develop and provide a much better long-term solution for future generations of sick children and their families from all over Ireland. – Yours, etc,

RAY MARTIN,

Wilfield Park,

Sandymount, Dublin 4.