Chair of group selecting site for hospital quits

THE chair of a group tasked with selecting a site for a new national children’s hospital has resigned because of a conflict of interest.

Also, the decision on a location for the new hospital, due last week, has been deferred for six weeks.

Yesterday, the Health Service Executive (HSE) announced that John O’Brien, chair of the group appointed to select the site, had stepped down, and will be replaced by Laverne McGuinness, National Director of Shared Services.

“This situation is due to the continued candidacy of St James’s Hospital as a potential site for the Children’s Hospital and Mr O’Brien’s former association with St James’s as CEO,” the statement said.

Mr O’Brien stepped down of his own volition to avoid any perception of bias.

St James’s is one of eight interest groups, including six Dublin hospitals and two private development consortiums, bidding to host the new hospital. They are St Vincent’s, the Mater, Connolly, Beaumont, Tallaght, the Beacon Medical Group and Alburn Development, controlled by solicitor Noel Smith.

Labour health spokes-woman Liz McManus said Mr O’Brien’s decision to step down, six weeks into the deliberation process, was “long overdue”. She also accused the HSE of changing the terms of reference designed to guide the selection of a hospital site. The terms of reference were drawn up by consultants McKinsey at a cost of €170,000.

The McKinsey review - a report on best practice in the provision of paediatric care - found the State could support only one world-class children’s hospital, given its population.

It recommended the hospital be located in Dublin adjacent to an adult hospital with space for expansion and easily accessible to public transport.

It has now emerged the concerns of Dublin’s three maternity hospitals will also be taken into account. Ms McManus said yesterday was “the first time the HSE had mentioned that the maternity hospitals had anything to do with it”. Yesterday’s HSE statement said the “maternity issue” had only become apparent over the past few weeks.

“The importance for co-location or a relationship between the children’s hospital and a maternity unit, which would focus on high risk deliveries, has been pointed out to be a very significant issue.

“At this point it is planned to extend the working time for the committee in order to allow input from the three maternity hospitals in Dublin (Coombe, Rotunda, Holles St) in relation to their views on their willingness to co-locate with the children’s hospital,” the HSE said.

A HSE spokesperson said the need for a neo-natal intensive care facility in the new hospital was part of what they were now looking at, which means it is likely to be co-located at a maternity hospital.

Separately, the HSE has come in from further flak from the Irish Hospital Consultants’ Association (IHCA), which met with HSE chief Prof Brendan Drumm yesterday to discuss the A&E crisis and the row over proposals for a new consultants’ contract. However, IHCA general secretary Finbarr Fitzpatrick said there had been “no meeting of minds” and members would continue to boycott any new consultant appointments.

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