The Minister will need the wisdom of Solomon

Health Minister, Dr. James Reilly is going to require the wisdom of Solomon to reach a decision on the location of the much needed Irish National Paediatric Hospital, writes Maureen Browne.

Health Minister, Dr. James Reilly is going to require the wisdom of Solomon to reach a decision on the location of the much needed Irish National Paediatric Hospital.

Dr. James Reilly, T.D.
Dr. James Reilly, T.D.

The Dolphin Committee, which was established under the Chairmanship of former HSE Chair, Dr. Frank Dolphin to produce an options document for the Minister has sought a 14 days extension of its original deadline of May 24.

This is hardly surprising in view of reports that the Committee has received up to 50 submissions – and at least 25 detailed proposals – from various interests, anxious to provide a site for the new hospital.

Greenfield sites, brownfield sites, shovel ready sites, stand alone hospital sites, tri-located hospital sites, co-located hospital sites, sites adjacent to acute hospitals, sites adjacent to maternity hospitals, sites in the city centre, sites on the docks, sites on the outskirts of the city, sites in north county Dublin, sites in south county Dublin, sites outside of Dublin, NAMA sites, relatively small sites, medium sized sites, enormous sites, free sites and sites which will have to be paid for, have all been put before the Committee.

Greenfield sites, brownfield sites, shovel ready sites, stand alone hospital sites, tri-located hospital sites, co-located hospital sites, sites adjacent to acute hospitals, sites adjacent to maternity hospitals have been proposed

The costs will vary, depending on the site but more importantly whether the hospital is stand alone, co-located or tri-located. It is unlikely that anything will be built for under €400 million at present day prices and in the light of past experience, I would expect it to be significantly higher.

Experience has shown that it was never easy to establish a national paediatrics hospital. It is almost 100 years since the National Children’s Hospital in Harcourt Street, Dublin and St. Ultan’s Hospital in Charlemont Street, Dublin, first proposed getting together to establish a national paediatric hospital.  I’m not sure what were the views at the time of the Children’s Hospital in Temple Street,  Dublin, which has been founded in Buckingham Street in 1872 and moved to Temple Street in 1879. (Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin, Dublin, was built in 1956, bringing the number of children’s hospitals in the city at the time to four.)

Managers believe it could take up to 10 years to build
  • Just over 59 per cent of senior health managers who participated in a Health Manager survey believe it will take up to 10 years to build the new national paediatric hospital.
  • Twenty two per cent think it will be built within four years, while 18 per cent think it will never be built at all.

Nearly a century later, there are far more players and on the face of it, all seem to have merit.

The Mater Hospital site has the backing of the Children’s University Hospital in Temple Street and the Rotunda Hospital and would provide a paediatric and a co-located maternity hospital on the campus.

St. James’s Hospital and Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin have also offered to develop a paediatric hospital and a co-located maternity hospital

The Coombe Women’s Hospital has proposed to develop a national children’s hospital, and says it would be unnecessary to build a maternity hospital for a number of years. The Coombe is seeking the support of St. James; if the St. James’s bid does not succeed.

It is almost 100 years since the National Children’s Hospital in Harcourt Street, Dublin and St. Ultan’s Hospital in Charlemont Street, Dublin, first proposed getting together to establish a national paediatric hospital

It is understood that at least three other hospitals – Tallaght, Beaumont and Connolly Hospital – have made proposals to the Review Group.

The former Phoenix Park Racecourse has been proposed as a free “shovel ready” site for a stand alone paediatric hospital.

It is understood that NAMA has offered 11 sites to the Review Group including the former Glass Bottle site and a North Docks site.

Fingal County Council is reported to have nine sites on offer; although it is not clear which of the myriad of sites in the north county the Council is backing.  Three different sites are believed to have been proposed in and around the former Belcamp College in Balgriffin, another submission involves a large site at Lissenhall in Swords and it is reported that there is a 200 acre site near the airport on offer.

Other sites mentioned are at  Lucan, Ballymun, Cappagh, Dardistown, the Ward, the Grangegorman site earmarked for the development of a new DIT campus, Newlands Cross and the Red Cow (although I’m not sure if these are one or two sites).