Call to review location of children’s hospital

THE former head of the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board has backed the new Government’s plans to re-examine whether the facility should be built at the Mater site.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, the group’s ex-chairman Philip Lynch said the planned move needed to take place because of what he claimed are serious planning, financial and logistical issues at the location.

The businessman quit his post last October after a public row with then Health Minister Mary Harney, which occurred after Mr Lynch met the Crumlin Hospital foundation.

This group argued the hospital should be moved from the Mater to Crumlin, which would involve significantly less expense and construction work.

Under the project’s terms of reference the board cannot examine alternative options to the decision to build at the existing location, a situation Mr Lynch fundamentally disagreed with and which led to his departure.

Six months on from the row, the businessman said he believes his concerns — and those of others still on the board — will be vindicated by any full review of the national paediatric hospital project by the new Government.

“This review will have to be done, even if there is a delay in the project a little while. It’s best if at this stage it is all rejigged and replaced on a 40-acre site, with somewhere between Leopardstown and Balbriggan or out in Crumlin the best option.

“I raised concerns when I was on the board, about how the current plans will split ambulatory care, the finances and having sick children in a high-storey building in the middle of a city.

“Other people on the board are aware of those difficulties. The Mater site cost is a bulldozing job, but the ball keeps getting kicked over the Hogan Stand; the issue’s not being addressed.

“Three years ago I believed the site was right, now I believe it can’t be. The project is bureaucracy on bureaucracy, it is a building exercise,” he said.

Mr Lynch was speaking after it emerged incoming Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Fine Gael health spokesperson Dr James Reilly have discussed the potential transfer of the site from the Mater to another location.

In meetings with the board chief executive Eilish Hardiman in November, the possibility of moving the facility to a greenfield site outside the M50 was put forward.

Dr Reilly has since confirmed the project “has to be fully reviewed” in its entirety, with a focus on whether a new site location could be €200-250 million cheaper than the €650m Mater option, where €30m has already been spent on contracts, salaries and planning.

The new Fine Gael- Labour administration’s Programme for Government has given a commitment to develop a new national paediatric hospital, which is currently planned for 2015, but has not specified where it will be based.

Among the other options rejected or not considered during the early stages of the project are Tallaght, Crumlin, St James’s and a potential greenfield site outside the M50 put forward by philanthropist Noel Smyth.

Tallaght Hospital Action Group spokesperson Triona Murphy said the organisation was told by all parties “except Fianna Fáil” that a complete review of the project would take place if they were elected.

However, a board spokesperson said the group has already undertaken a rigorous review of the “project at the Mater site” over the past six months.

She said the board believes the current site continues to be “best-placed to meet patient needs”.


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