24 specialists unite against children’s hospital site

PROMINENT medical practitioners who specialise in paediatrics have come out against the building of the new national children’s hospital in the middle of Dublin, saying it is not in the best interests of children.

The 24 medical specialists, who between them have worked in all three Dublin children’s and maternity hospitals, have signed a letter stating they support the view expressed this week by former heart surgeon, Maurice Neligan.

Mr Neligan said he had reconsidered his backing for the development after a visit to the proposed site beside the Mater Hospital.

“There is no green space, nothing to look at. It doesn’t seem now to me to be the best thing for the children,” he said.

The decision to locate the hospital, which will amalgamate Dublin’s three existing hospitals – the National Children’s Hospital, Tallaght; Our Lady’s Children’ Hospital, Crumlin and Children’s University, Temple Street – on the Mater Hospital site was made despite concerns raised about lack of space and access from outside Dublin.

One of the doctors who signed a protest letter, published in a national newspaper yesterday, was Dr Fin Breathnach, retired consultant paediatric oncologist, now chief executive of Barretstown.

Dr Breathnach, who worked at Crumlin, said he had been making his views known since 2006 when it was first announced that a new national children’s hospital would be built on the Mater Hospital site.

While there was no doubt all three hospitals should come together on one site in terms of specialist care, everything in the design of the building should be in the best interests of children, he insisted.

Dr Breathnach said it was planned to build a 16-storey hospital on the Mater site – not because it would give children a better view – but because it was the only way it could be constructed on such a small site.

“They have no room for expansion on the Mater Hospital site, despite Ireland having the fastest-growing child population in Europe. By the time it is built it will be too small,” he said.

He also warned that the cost of building the hospital, which included a car park for around 1,000 vehicles 60 feet underground, would be “extraordinarily expensive”.

Like Mr Neligan, Dr Breathnach believes there was a lack of transparency about how the original selection was made and that there was political pressure behind decision to locate the €600m development on the Mater Hospital site, which is within the constituency of former Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern.

“If Bertie wants the hospital built as a monument to his former stewardship, I can assure him that, when it is built, it will be reviled for decades to come, because it is wrong for children; it is not in their best interests and it is a huge waste of money,” he said.

A Department of Health spokesman said plans to build the hospital on the Mater site would continue.


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