Health Minister James Reilly said the Government was not “wed” to the Mater site as a location for the new children’s hospital, but said it did need to be co-located with an adult hospital.
Dr Reilly said the Cabinet will today decide on terms of reference for the review group set up to give the Government a range of options on where best to build the hospital. However, he said the Mater site was not the only option and “everything is on the table”.
Once the review group is established, it will report back to the Government within four weeks.
Concerns have been raised about the possibility of a scaled down children’s hospital being built on the Mater site.
The heads of three medical schools wrote to Dr Reilly last week adding their voices to fears that if this was the case, vital research and education facilities would be scaled back.
However, speaking in Cork yesterday, the minister said there was “no question” of scaling back on the research side of any facility.
“I am in discussions with government and others to find the best way forward. We are not wed to the Mater site and we will not rush into this.
“But we do want to get the children’s hospital built as quickly as possible so children get the best care in the best environment.
“The new hospital needs to be co-located with an adult hospital and the Government is committed to building in right place with the right facilities and there will be no compromise in relation to patient care.”
Former chairman of the hospital project, Philip Lynch, said An Bord Pleanála’s decision had dictated that the Mater site was not a runner.
“I just hope the minister has an open mind about this, and listens to the people on the ground, people working at the coalface who know what they are talking about. We have the best expertise in this country we just need to harness it and listen to it.”
He pointed to the opinions of experts in hospital building, such as James Sheehan, the developer behind the Blackrock, Galway, and Hermitage clinics.
In an open letter, Mr Sheehan said he drew up plans in 2005 for a new hospital on a greenfield site adjacent to the M50. He said his proposal was never seriously considered and the political process took over with all the vested interests having a voice. He said the current design was admirable but was “totally unsuitable” on the Mater site.
Meanwhile, the minister said he was not embarrassed by reports of cramped, crowded, and outdated conditions at Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin, the country’s largest children’s hospital.
Responding to claims by Dr Orla Franklin, a paediatric consultant cardiologist at the hospital, Dr Reilly said conditions at Temple St Hospital, which was built in the Victorian era, were probably worse.
He said the comments simply highlighted the pressing need to get moving on a new hospital.
That urgency was highlighted in a new fundraising campaign launched yesterday by Crumlin Children’s Hospital in which it appealed for help to raise the €8m needed to upgrade cancer and cardiac facilities.
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