An Taisce concerned about kids' hospital

  • Deborah Condon

Health Minister, Dr James Reilly, is being called on to respond to concerns raised by An Taisce in relation to the location of the new National Children's Hospital.

Last week, the director of policy and operations with An Taisce, James Nix, wrote to the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, expressing his concerns about this project.

He pointed out that according to ‘express recommendations already issued by the Department of Health and HSE, and in line with best international practice, the National Children's Hospital should be co-located with a full maternity hospital'.

"However, with the tendering process to be re-commenced soon, the apparent failure to co-locate the new National Children's Hospital with a maternity hospital, or to coherently plan for it, sends alarm bells ringing.

"To fail to provide for maternity co-location would be to engage in project splitting. Project splitting would, in turn, fall foul of basic requirements set out in Irish and European planning law, bringing about a repeat of the previous delay all over again," Mr Nix stated.

He insisted that it is still possible for an application ‘to successfully meet the requirements of planning law, but action must be taken quickly'.

In November 2012, St James's Hospital in Dublin was selected by the Government as the location for the new hospital. Earlier this year, it was announced that St James's and the Coombe Maternity Hospital would become part of the St James's Hospital group under the new hospital trust structures.

Mr Nix pointed out that just east of the Coombe is 15.3 acres of largely vacant land that is currently controlled by NAMA and Dublin City Council.

"By extending the November 2012 decision to the entire campus of St James's Hospital Group, this 15.3 acres can be bought for hospital development from NAMA and Dublin City Council. The benefits of using these 15.3 acres are outstanding - immediate co-location with a fully operational tertiary referral maternity hospital, namely the Coombe," he explained.

He noted that the Coombe has benefited from extensive investment over the last four years and can be further developed ‘or superseded by a new maternity hospital in the future without site constraints'.

As well as this, the new children's hospital could be constructed ‘without disruption to ongoing services and without site constraints in time'.

Mr Nix said that ‘we are currently sleepwalking into a situation where we won't have a new children's hospital co-located with a maternity hospital'.

"Unless action is taken now, this reality will only be brought home to the wider public as the planning process unfolds - a time when it is too late to remedy the problem. Thankfully, a solution is in sight. To ensure happiness and prosperity, and to cherish all of the children of the nation equally, we ask you to act now," Mr Nix added.

Responding to this, Fianna Fail's health spokesperson, Billy Kelleher, called on Health Minister Reilly to address ‘the serious questions raised by Mr Nix', as reported in the Irish Times yesterday.

"Despite the early blaze of publicity from Minister Reilly when he chose St James's Hospital as the new site, all momentum appears to have drained from the project, with serious concerns now mounting about the suitability of the planned site.

"The intervention from Ireland's National Trust, raising very valid questions about the refusal to site the development on available lands adjacent to the Coombe, is significant and merits a speedy and substantive response from James Reilly," Mr Kelleher insisted.

He added that this project is of 'major national strategic importance, transcending all party political consideration'.

"The fact that a statutory consultee in the planning process has raised such fundamental questions about the current site raises serious questions about the viability of James Reilly's plans. When An Taisce raises such fundamental questions in such strident terms, the Minister has an obligation to put aside the usual bluster and deal with the questions raised," Mr Kelleher added.

 


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