Construction work on the long-delayed new national children’s hospital will finally start early next year — provided the project overcomes an expected An Bord Pleanála grilling this autumn.
Officials for the facility, which will cater for hundreds of thousands of seriously ill children across the country, revealed the timeline yesterday.
Speaking during an update briefing at the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland, senior members of the new hospital’s board said the exact design of the St James’s Hospital site is still being developed.
However, they confirmed a planning application to An Bord Pleanála will be made this autumn.
Should this prove successful, space for the facility will be cleared and the first building blocks put in place next spring.
Services are then expected to be transferred from other areas by 2018, with the hospital becoming fully operational by 2019.
Tom Costello, chairman of the national paediatric hospital development board, which is a separate but linked group to the children’s hospital board, said the exact cost of the plan will not be known until its design is finalised this summer.
However, he said it is likely to cost somewhere in the same region as the now-scrapped plan for the Mater, which was expected to need at least €650m in State, lottery, and charity funding.
Mr Costello, who has 35 years of experience in the construction industry, said the new facility is taking a considerable amount of work and is “akin to building the Aviva Stadium and the National Convention Centre” at the same time.
However, while noting the “frustration” over previous delays to the building of a national children’s hospital in recent years, he quoted former British prime minister Winston Churchill, saying: “It’s no use saying ‘we’re doing our best’; you’ve got to succeed in doing what is necessary.”
Under the latest plans for a state-of-the-art national children’s hospital, two “satellite” urgent care centres linked to the facility will be based at Tallaght Hospital and Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown.
Children’s hospital board chief executive Eilis Hardiman, said an “ambulance retrieval service” will also be in operation to ensure that “the sickest children get to the service” as quickly as possible from all parts of the country.
Addressing concerns the St James’s site could fall foul of similar problems to the original Mater Hospital plan, board chairman Jim Browne said that the previous project was not fulfilled “because the site was too small”.
He said the “densification” issue would not arise on the new site as it is significantly bigger, while traffic congestion will be minimised through the use of three Luas stops, a number of direct bus routes, a hoped-for underground link to Heuston station, and 1,000 carpark spaces.
The new children’s hospital project, which was originally due to be completed by 2016, has suffered repeated delays since it was first revealed by ex-health minister Mary Harney at the height of the Celtic Tiger boom.
The Mater was controversially chosen as the new facility’s base before the plan was rejected by An Bord Pleanála in 2012.
A report commissioned by Health Minister James Reilly subsequently decided to build the site at St James’s Hospital.
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