Kids' hospital location row reignites

A new pressure group has called on the Government to reconsider its decision to build the new national paediatric hospital at the Mater site.

Medical professionals and parents in the The New Children's Hospital Alliance have also urged members of the children's hospital development board to consider their positions following the recent resignation of their Chairman Philip Lynch, reportedly over concerns about the viability of the Mater project.

The development board is expected to defend the Mater project a press conference tomorrow, amid concerns about the funding and location of the new hospital.

Alliance spokesperson Dr Roisin Healy told that while the Alliance did not have a definitive plan for an alternative hospital site, she felt the Mater location decision should be reconsidered.

Dr Healy said a new committee to decide on the location should be established with international experts on it. She said there had been a lack of proper consultation on the decision to locate the new hospital at the Mater.

The Alliance says the new hospital could cost up to €800 million to build, whereas the Department of Health's own estimates show that building the hospital on a "greenfield" site would only cost around €330 million.

Some of the of the funding for the new children's hospital is to be raised from private sources, but doubts have been expressed about whether the money can be raised.

Dr Healy said there were major concerns about access to the hospital, particularly for emergencies. There were also issues with lack of car-parking, and lack of room for expansion on the Mater site.

She felt a site nearer to the M50 would be more suitable for the new children's hospital, and felt Tallaght Hospital too would have been a better alternative to the Mater site.

Dr Healy said the Department of Health/HSE argument that a children's hospital must be on the site of an acute adult hospital did not hold water. She said a new children's hospital could be linked to a major adult hospital without necessarily being adjacent to one.

Emergency medicine consultants, she pointed out, had said there was a need for two fully-equipped Dublin emergency departments for children with 24-hour anaesthesia back-up, but when the Mater development was built it would have the only A&E providing such a service, with Tallaght operating an urgent care centre that would close at 10pm.

However, National Paediatric Hospital Development Board CEO Eilish Hardiman in a recent interview with said the Mater will be readily accessible to public and private transport.

“We have underground car parking for those arriving by car and we will prioritise car parking for child patients. We are looking at running buses to get patients and their families from train stations.”

"As regards ambulance/emergency access, an ambulance trying to get to the Mater at the moment still gets there. The ambulance services do not have issues about access.”

However, Dr Healy, who is is a former emergency medicine consultant at Crumlin Hospital, said at present ambulance services have a choice of adult and children's hospitals to go to in Dublin, whereas the Mater will in future be the only site in the city for major paediatric emergencies.

A study by experts at the Department of Geography in TCD, published in 2007 said, if, as was likely, the majority of trips to the new single children's hospital would be by car, the Tallaght site was the best option, followed by the Mater site.

It said St James's was the best option if most people were accessing the new hospital by public transport, followed by the Mater.

However, the study found that for patients from Dublin only, the Mater site was the best option for access by car.

Overall, the TCD study queried the Government's 2006 decision to locate the children's hospital at the Mater.

However, a joint Department of Health/HSE working group, in recommending the Mater location for the hospital in 2006, cited another TCD study which found that the Mater and St James's offered the best access by public and private transport for patients from within and outside Dublin.

However, taking other factors into account, including that the new hospital could be built more quickly at the Mater, and that this site was centrally located between particular specialist services at Beaumont and St James's, the task group chose the Mater site.

The Crumlin hospital board, after initially refusing to cooperate, eventually agreed to serve on of the Mater children's hospital development Board.

However, Dr Healy claimed Crumlin's reasons for doing this have never been publicly explained.

The Alliance has paid tribute to the recently-deceased surgeon, Maurice Neligan, stating he was a fearless advocate for a change of site for the proposed new National Paediatric Hospital was was driven by a concern for sick children.

"We in the New Children's Hospital Alliance were priviliged to have known him. He told us in a recent email, 'We mustn't give up the fight.' "


View the interview with Eilish Hardiman here


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