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Horror does not adequately describe my reaction to the story that the children’s hospital (National Paediatric Hospital), had become a bone of “divergence” between the unhappy partners in this tatterdemalion Coalition.
Since the project was first mooted (how many years ago?), I have been an advocate of the Tallaght campus. I have expressed that opinion through your columns. Like everybody else seriously interested in this essential resource for our children, I have been willing to accept the assessment of a truly independent expert review. We were promised that during the last general election campaign. In due course, the new minister for health flew in two groups of experts. One, chosen by the Department of Health, examined the location — and, to nobody’s surprise, rubber-stamped the Mater site. The other consisted of the CEOs (ie “on the ground” day-by-day managers) of four of the top children’s hospitals in the world. This group had no function with regard to location but it identified no less than 14 serious issues in the inadequate design and likely malfunctioning of the hospital — as planned. These, they said, needed to be addressed immediately.
The common-sense action would have been to tell the development board to address these issues (see the Department of Health or the HSE websites).
Instead, within days, when the four CEOs had hardly re-boarded their planes, Health Minister James Reilly ordered the development board to lodge a planning application based on the ‘old’ un-amended plans and design. After six months, delaying the project further, and the expenditure of considerable sums, this application was refused by An Bord Pleanala.
Eventually, the minister appointed the Dolphin group to make a recommendation — within weeks. It is now October and we find that, regardless of the intrinsic merits of any of the tabled ‘bids’ or proposals, (many of which have scrambled onto the table at the last moment), the entire project has become a battleground in the internecine domestic war within the Coalition.
The result will be a white-washed “ready-up”, designed to save the Government, not to save children.
Children will suffer all their lives — or even die — because this project has again and again been postponed. They, their parents, relatives and friends can hardly be expected easily to forgive those politically responsible. Or should that be “irresponsible”?
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