Reilly knew of smaller hospital fears

Health Minister James Reilly was told on his appointment that reducing the scale of the €650m National Children’s Hospital on the Mater site would impact on patient care.

The information was contained in his departmental briefing document.

In response to An Bord Pleanála’s shock decision to reject the long-standing Mater site plans last week, the senior Fine Gael TD said a smaller version of the proposed facility was now a “distinct possibility”.

Dr Reilly said this may be considered as a way to still receive the green light from the board to build the facility at the Mater, adding that parts of the existing proposal are “grandiose”.

However, while this will be considered by a review group to be named at cabinet next Tuesday, the briefing document from Mar 2011 appears to rule out the step as it would not be in the service’s best interests.

On p244 of the report, given to Dr Reilly as part of a series of key notes on what was happening within the department in the months prior to his appointment last year, it states: “Limits could also be set on the hospital which could adversely affect the development of a tertiary level hospital.”

The remark was made during a wider discussion on conditions which may need to take place if the Mater site’s planning permission was rejected.

Dr Reilly said on Tuesday that potential reductions in the Mater site plans, needed if the Government re-submits them to An Bord Pleanála and potentially ready within three months, will likely focus on the large laboratory space provided and education research facilities.

This second factor, said the minister — who has insisted the number of beds at the hospital will not be reduced — could be located at Temple St Children’s Hospital or the Rotunda.

Richie O’Reilly of the Tallaght Hospital Action Group, which opposes the choice of the Mater site for the Children’s Hospital, said the changes could also include a reduction in size of rooms for children.

Under existing plans these rooms would allow space for parents to sleep over with their child, a move Mr O’Reilly claimed could now be under threat.

Meanwhile, pre-consultation documents on the children’s hospital issue released yesterday show that An Bord Pleanála had warned those behind the proposed facility as early as Nov 2010 that they had serious concerns over its size.

In an email to the Children’s Hospital of Ireland Foundation Ltd group on Nov 5, 2010, the planning body said the development board should “bear in mind the constrained nature of the site”.

It added that “from its perspective, this would be a significant issue” for the location due to the “visual impact” the facility would have on the surrounding area. The planning body also asked for environment impact reports to be carried out on alternative sites on Dec 2, 2010.

To date, the An Bord Pleanála hearings have cost taxpayers almost €500,000 in expert advice, travel for witnesses, and applications for hearings.



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