Mater remains best site for new children's hospital


THE BOARD of the children’s hospital of Ireland remains unanimously of the view that the new hospital should be trilocated beside the impressive new adult hospital to open shortly and beside the “shovel-ready” maternity site, which is to be built when economic conditions allow.

This view is shared by the management boards of Temple Street, Rotunda and Mater hospitals.

When the consultants from the world’s leading children’s hospitals came here at the invitation of Dr James Reilly, I spent time with them and listened carefully to their opinions.

They each hammered home the point that the creation of a centre of excellence both in teaching and model of care should take precedence over every other problem in the development of a new children’s hospital.

Following the recent planning refusal, the generous offer by the Sisters of Mercy of the use of the entire original Victorian Mater hospital beside our site, and built around its elegant 19th century quadrangle, will now allow us to create an intimate tree-lined and beautiful collegiate workplace on a par with Trinity College and other leading universities.

Research, teaching and academic foundations will flourish here and will create a seat of learning and a concentration of medical knowledge for the benefit of both adult and young patients in the surrounding hospitals.

Removing this element from the main building and placing it in this new space means that we can reduce its height and density to within the guidelines of the area plan.

It will allow us to address the whole issue of scale and mass as identified by An Bord Pleanála in its report.

We can run the restoration programme of the Victorian building using a separate contractor, working in tandem with the main building contractor.

This means we can catch up most of the lost building time.

Our focus remains to deliver this hospital in the life of this Government.

The fabric of the original building is in excellent condition and restoration and conservation should take about 18 months.

Our board did not handle the media controversy well on the issue of traffic and parking.

We allowed incorrect information to enter the public mind unchallenged and thereby gain traction as fact.

Here are the real facts.

The current car park has fewer than 100 spaces. It is muddy and wet and open to the elements. Sick children have to be carried in the rain to the hospital doors. It is unacceptable.

In our plan, there will be 1,000 warm and dry spaces with direct indoor access to lifts up into the hospital. This does not include the 400 spaces now complete under the “ready to open” adult hospital or the spaces to be provided underneath the maternity hospital when it is built.

The access to the site at this time is also unacceptable. Surrounding main roads are clogged with parking on each side, both legal and illegal. If two taxis stop at the entrance the street is blocked, causing delays and frustration.

In our plan all this will be swept away. Roads around the site will be made clearways, with no parking. There will be taxi-only lanes.

All arterial access junctions will have large signage with an emergency number that will allow parents to phone in for a motorcycle escort if caught in a traffic jam with a very sick child.

The money to build this hospital has been ring-fenced. There will be significant savings if we can get into the market now as there is exceptional value to be had in construction at this time.

Our committee has undertaken to raise the €65 million fit-out cost over five years.

Agreement has been reached with Loretta Glucksman (chairwoman) that will allow us to join forces with the Ireland Fund to reach out to the 50 million Irish-American diaspora.

We believe they will contribute to this last and much-needed piece of national infrastructure.

Fundraising will kick off with a spectacular concert in the O2 on the model of what was done for the Queen’s visit.

Tallaght, Crumlin and Temple Street have dedicated fundraising teams who have been invited to come together with us so that we can tap into their vast experience and send out one clear message.

Money for their operational needs will be set aside during the building programme and prior to them being subsumed into the new national unit.

We want to build one of the best hospitals in the world to set a whole new standard of care for the sick children of Ireland. Each child will have a separate room and toilet. Parents can stay over if they wish.

We want to bring 21st century care to as many children as possible, as soon as possible, and as cheaply as possible for the taxpayers.

Our committee stands ready to help the Minister deliver this on time and on budget and to help the review team in any way we can, when we present our proposals to Dr Frank Dolphin.

Harry Crosbie is chairman of the children’s hospital of Ireland, Temple Street