He confirmed at yesterday’s meeting of the Joint Committee on Health and Children that planning permission for the €650m site at St James’s Hospital would be lodged with An Bord Pleanála in June. The long-delayed project was originally supposed to be ready by 2016, the centenary of the Rising, but was moved from the Mater Hospital site.
Mr Varadkar said the design of the 384-bed hospital was being finalised and there had been extensive pre-planning negotiations.
He said it was planned to have the hospital fully built in 2019 but, assuming planning was granted, tendering and construction could go ahead next year.
Mr Varadkar enthused about the site of the South Dublin Union where the hospital will be built on one of the battle sites of the Rising.
He also recalled the 1916 Proclamation declared that the nation would cherish all of its children equally.
“I think there is no better testament to 1916 than we should begin the construction of our national children’s hospital on the site of the South Dublin Union which, of course, was one of the sites of the Rising 100 years ago,” he said.
However, the minister was speaking on the same day a group of parents were voicing their concerns about the planned children’s hospital at the Family Forum in Farmleigh House in Dublin.
Those attending got an update on how the project was proceeding and to view the design proposals.
The parents raised problems of access, a severe lack of parking and the lack of space to expand, and to include a maternity hospital.
With them was the chief executive of the Jack and Jill Foundation, Jonathan Irwin, who has claimed plans for the hospital project are deeply flawed.
“It is never too late to ask the right questions on the wrong proposal and this site for the new children’s hospital couldn’t be more wrong,” he said.
The parents sat down with the chief executive of the Children’s Hospital Group, Eilish Hardiman, and members of the design team.
Among the parents was Aaron Daly, whose 10-year-old daughter, Sophia, has cerebral palsy and arthrogryposis. An X-ray taken in March last year confirmed she had developed scoliosis — a 90 degree bend in her lumbar spine.
The girl, who is non-verbal and communicates with her eyes, is in extreme pain but has to wait for surgery because medical staff at Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin are overstretched.
Mr Daly has posted Sophia’s story on Facebook to emphasise the need for a children’s hospital on a greenfield site, preferably by the M50.
“We need to be able to get our children to hospital and be able to stay with them,” he said.