The National Maternity Hospital is building a multimillion-euro extension, despite preparations to move it to a new location. The new hospital, to be built on the St Vincent’s Hospital campus, will not be ready until late 2024, at the earliest.
Just six months ago, the target opening date was 2023 and that was already years behind schedule. In the meantime, hospital management have activated plans, for which they received permission in 2017, to expand the labour and delivery unit at the current Holles St site.
In a statement, the hospital said: “Work is under way at Holles St on an extension to the labour and delivery unit, which will give us four additional, modern delivery rooms, and improvements to the existing facility.
We would expect 50,000 women to be delivered prior to the move to St Vincent’s, with 100,000 patients using the hospital during that period and these works are absolutely necessary.
It said the cost of the extension was €3.5m to €4m. Construction has begun on the Dublin city centre site in the last fortnight and the end result will be a two-storey extension that will allow for an increase in the number of labour and delivery rooms and the upgrading of some rooms to include en suite facilities and a specialist isolation room.
Conditions in the overcrowded hospital — the busiest in the country — are extremely challenging for patients and staff. However, there are questions about the cost-effectiveness of repeatedly ploughing millions into piecemeal improvements at a hospital that has been earmarked for relocation for 20 years.
When the move was officially approved, in 2013, then health minister James Reilly said the new hospital would open in 2018. In 2015, his successor, Leo Varadkar, said it would be “substantially complete by late 2019”.
In 2016, current Health Minister Simon Harris said it would open in 2021, but last December that deadline was extended to 2023, following delays caused by a row with the Sisters of Charity (which owns the St Vincent’s campus) over the ownership and governance of the new hospital.
The HSE said this week: “The preparatory and enabling works for the new hospital are under way and will continue into 2020. The target date for construction completion for the new hospital is 2024.
“It is anticipated that the hospital will require circa five to six months for commissioning, training, and familiarisation, prior to opening.”
The anticipated cost has trebled since 2013, from €100m to €300m, and building costs are rising all the time. Planning approval for the works at Holles St states that the extension will be used for five years.
The same planning approval also grants retention, for a further five years, of another extension, which houses laboratories and which was originally given planning permission for five years, back in 2007.
Since the relocation of the hospital was first recommended, in 2008, the hospital has received planning permission for six different construction projects.
Local residents objected to the current works, arguing that they had put up with years of continuous construction and that it did not make sense to keep pumping taxpayer money into the building when it is due to move to St Vincent’s.