Reilly: Hospital could be on a greenfield site

A greenfield location will be considered for the new children’s hospital as an alternative to the city centre Mater site, Health Minister James Reilly confirmed.

However, such a decision would make it “challenging” to have the hospital completed by 2016, as promised by the Taoiseach in recent weeks.

Two weeks after An Bord Pleanála refused planning permission to the hospital on the site of the Mater Hospital, the Cabinet yesterday approved setting up an expert group to examine the options.

Mr Reilly said that“everything was on the table” for the group and “whilst we want to build it as quickly as possible, we don’t want to rush it.”

He said: “We’ve a wonderful opportunity here to do something that will serve our country and children of the country well for the next hundred years. Let’s do it right. But let’s do it quickly.”

The new group, headed by former HSE chairman Frank Dolphin, will report back within 56 days and has been asked to examine the different options available, looking at:

* Planning considerations

* Government policy on healthcare for children

* Cost of various options

* Timelines of options

* Implementation risks of the different options.

Dr Reilly, who had spoken about developing a smaller children’s hospital at the Mater site, denied he was now leaning towards a greenfield location.

He said that there were advantages and disadvantages involved with this.

“This expert group need to have a good, long hard look at this. I don’t think it would be right for me to pre-judge anything they are going to come up with.”

Asked if he could guarantee the hospital would be completed by the 1916 centenary if it moved to a greenfield site, he said: “It’ll prove challenging, there’s no question about that.”

However, he said there would be advantages. “You would be able to build 24 hours a day if you were away from a built up area. And there would be considerable advantages in terms of expediting the construction once we got through the tendering and the planning process,” he said.

He said he believed that co-locating the children’s hospital with an adult hospital was important, as was further “tri-location” with a maternity hospital. He said the research elements of the project were also important.

Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher urged the minister to clarify how long it would take to get the project up and running after the expert group reports in mid-May.

He said the expert group should have been asked to consider the fact that co-location produced the best clinical outcomes for children.

“Are we now downgrading the potential for a world class, co-located facility by the very fact that it is not mentioned in the terms of reference?”

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