Doctors: No half-measures for child hospital

The country’s most senior paediatricians have warned against downsizing the new National Children’s Hospital to make it fit the Mater site, fearing a smaller building would mean sacrificing vital facilities.

The faculty of paediatrics at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland also says it wants a place on the review group James Reilly, the health minister, is setting up to plot the way ahead after the development proposed for the Mater campus was refused planning permission on the grounds of its scale.

Dr Reilly yesterday refused to say who would be involved in the review, which is to be chaired by business consultant, Frank Dolphin, a former chairman of Temple St Children’s Hospital.

His spokesman said the membership of the body would be announced next week. So far, Dr Reilly has only indicated that the architects behind the rejected plan would be on board.

Labour’s Pat Rabbitte, the minister for communications, said he had “serious doubts” about the choice of the Mater site.

Mr Rabbitte said his concerns about the city centre location related to access, transport, parking and other practical issue.

The faculty of paediatrics, which represents professors and consultants in the field, said it was crucial to have medical experts involved to ensure that facilities for patients and staff would not suffer if a scaled-down hospital was proposed.

Spokesman Dr Martin White said: “The review has to include paediatric nursing and medical expertise, not just a group of architects and engineers saying they can downsize it.”

Dr White said he did not believe there was much scope to reduce the size of the hospital without compromising the care it was designed to provide.

“Really, it doesn’t have a lot of fat within the proposal,” he said.

In refusing permission for the project, An Bord Pleanála complimented the “quality of the design” of the hospital but ruled the 16-storey structure was too big for the Mater site, was “visually incongruous” and would have a “profound negative effect on the appearance and visual amenity of the city skyline.”

Planning expert Henk Van Der Kamp, spokesman for the Irish Planning Institute, said An Bord Pleanála would be unlikely to take a different view on a revised proposal unless it was considerably smaller, as the protection of the skyline was a key planning objective.

“To change that objective, I think, would be very unlikely because it’s a very positive and worthwhile objective that is stated in the city development plan and is unlikely to be taken out,” he said.

“But the question would be, would it [a smaller building] give them enough floor space to accommodate all of the services required?”

The Government-appointed national paediatric hospital development board set up to oversee the Mater project is to meet next week to consider its options, which include moving the proposal to another site, but one member, businesswoman Norah Casey, said she wanted it to proceed at the Mater.

Dr White said he and his colleagues did not have a preference for any particular site so long as it could provide a world class hospital. “The actual structure of the paediatric hospital is absolutely core to that,” he said. “It has to be a facility that has everything the children and families and staff need.”

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