THE Mater Hospital is now back in pole position to be selected as the location of the new national children's hospital after backers submitted a radical new proposal which would shave almost €70m off the original cost.
A plan to build a 17-storey children's hospital at the site -- at a cost of €650m -- was shot down earlier this year by An Bord Pleanala.
However, new costing proposals submitted to a government review group in the past week propose the building of an 11-storey version of the children's hospital and an adjoining maternity hospital for a combined bill of €582m.
The backers were able to get more competitive quotes for the new plan due to increased competition in the construction sector, the Irish Independent understands.
The new plan would see the Rotunda maternity hospital closing and its operations moving to the Mater.
Insiders say the new bid has catapulted the Mater back to the leading option being considered by the review group.
The group, headed by former HSE chairman Frank Dolphin, is due to make recommendations to Health Minister James Reillyearly next month.
Up to 50 separate sites in the greater Dublin area have been offered for consideration by the review group but the list has been rapidly whittled down.
The stiffest opposition to the Mater site is coming from bids involving St James's, Tallaght and Blanchardstown hospitals -- all of which involve free land and adjoining adult facilities.
Earlier this month, the backers of the Mater site -- which is being championed by the Mater, Temple Street and the Rotunda -- put forward a revised plan, but were unable say how much it would cost.
Although it was claimed it would be cheaper than the previous plan, no figures were produced to show how the original construction cost estimate of €650m could be improved on.
However, new costings, knocking €68m off the overall cost of construction, were finally submitted to the review group last week.
The Mater plan involves the new tri-located hospital complex being completed by 2016.
The proposed cost is still €72m higher than the €510m estimate put forward by another leading contender, St James's Hospital.
That hospital said it could build children's and maternity hospitals on its site and claims the children's facility could be completed by 2015, a year sooner than the Mater.
There is already planning permission granted on the St James's site for a co-located private adult hospital, a plan which was abandoned last year.
However, despite being more expensive, insiders say the Mater site is still viewed as being the one to beat.
One of the arguments put forward by its backers is that more than €29m has already been spent on pre-planning at the Mater site, including design work, since it was chosen by the last government in 2006.
This would give it an advantage over rival sites and would speed up the timescale for the submission of a new planning application.
The review group was due to submit its report to Health Minister James Reilly tomorrow but was granted an extension because of the workload involved.
It is now not due to report until June 7.
Following this, Dr Reilly will bring the proposals to Cabinet.
Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent
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