Moves afoot for major new hospital in Cork city

Plans to have new elective hospital in place by 2024
Moves afoot for major new hospital in Cork city

Cork University Hospital’s location in the western suburbs is likely to influence where a new hospital is built. Sláintecare has stated that its preference is for elective hospitals to be “appropriately sited adjacent to major hospitals.” It is currently engaging in a site appraisal process to identify the most suitable location

An extensive trawl to identify a suitable site for a major new hospital in Cork city which would be up and running by 2024 has been completed by agents acting on behalf of Sláintecare, the government blueprint for health service reform.

The hospital, a walk-in facility of around 200,000 sq ft, dedicated to elective (scheduled) care, will be bigger than the recent very large €77m extension to the Bon Secours Hospital (c160,000 sq ft) on Western Road and could reasonably be expected to cost upwards of €100m.

Dublin-based commercial property agents Quinn Agnew conducted the search on behalf of Sláintecare, with similar searches carried out in Dublin and Galway.

Sites and premises were looked at, under a set of strict criteria, including that they had the capability to expand by up to 50% and that the site or premises had the capacity to deliver a facility that would be up and running by 2024.

The Irish Examiner understands all sides of Cork city were searched but Sláintecare’s Implementation Strategy suggests the west side is a more likely option, given a stated preference for new elective hospitals to be “appropriately sited adjacent to major hospitals, in Dublin, Cork and Galway, where volumes are sufficient to merit them”. These new hospitals should “enable clinicians to work across the elective facility and general hospitals”, the strategy says.

Cork University Hospital, Wilton, Cork. icture: Denis Scannell
Cork University Hospital, Wilton, Cork. icture: Denis Scannell

One possible option may be the 70 hectare Science and Technology Park at Curraheen, where UCC, who own 18.3ha, are building a new dental school and hospital and a health innovation hub. However public transport options and access to the Curraheen site would need improvement as both feature in the site selection criteria. Development of the Science Park has been slow since the 2011 masterplan launch.

Another site in that part of town is the former home ground of Cork City FC, bought some years ago by McCarthy Developments, who sought planning permission for an office block. A further option may be Westfields Office Quarter in Ballincollig, owned by the O’Flynn Group, a scheme with the potential to provide up to 285,000 sq ft of office space and on the same side of town as Cork University Hospital (CUH).

The Department of Health said in a statement that a site option appraisal in Cork, Dublin and Galway was carried out “to explore indicative sites and was not a site selection process”.

It said “the inclusion of indicative sites is one of a number of elements that makes up the Preliminary Business Case”.

The business case is being prepared to assist Sláintecare’s Elective Hospitals Oversight Group whose terms of reference include developing elective hospital capacity “with a 10-year horizon of need, which facilitates the separation of scheduled and unscheduled care”.

Healthcare players in Cork have been lobbying for years for a new hospital in the city, with proposals to merge the Mercy University Hospital (MUH) and the South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital (SIVUH) long mooted.

In 2016, the South/SouthWest Hospital group, which includes MUH and SIVUH, submitted a shortlist of six sites to the Department of Health for consideration as possible locations for a new €300m hospital in Cork city. In 2019, a project board was set up to drive the development of a new elective hospital that could ultimately replace MUH and SIVUH. At the time the board’s chair, Professor Geraldine McCarthy told the Irish Examiner it would be best if site selection was “out of our hands” and done independently.” She also said the new hospital could not be more than half an hour away from CUH.

The purpose of the new elective hospitals is to help tackle waiting lists and provide a range of walk-in diagnostic services.

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