Monday 29 September 2008

Backers claim co-located hospital will mean more beds for public patients

PROMOTERS OF a new €242 million co-located private hospital in Cork yesterday promised that it would free up beds in Cork University Hospital, but opponents of the plan claimed it will lead to serious traffic congestion and parking problems in the area.

An Bord Pleanála began the oral hearing yesterday into the proposal by the Beacon Medical Group for a six storey 183-bed private hospital at the northeastern corner of the grounds of Cork University Hospital (CUH) in Wilton on Cork’s southside.

According to Beacon, the proposed hospital will comprise 175 single rooms and eight critical care unit beds and six operating theatres along with full diagnostics incorporating almost €26 million worth of new generation equipment as well as 713 car spaces of which 390 are new. The proposed hospital will be operated under the terms of a joint initiative by Beacon and its US partner, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre which has revenues of nearly $7 billion (€4.7 billion) and currently operates the Beacon Hospital in Sandyford, Dublin.

Tom Finn, project director HSE co-location initiative, said that the Beacon hospital will be required to accept all patients from public hospitals on a 24/7 basis while it will also be required to provide all services currently available at CUH.

He said there are currently some 3,357 staff working at CUH and Cork University Maternity Hospital while the Beacon hospital will bring another 500 staff on to the site, but the maximum that will be on the campus at any one time will be 2,230 because many will be working shifts.

The aim of the co-location policy was to free up some 1,000 beds for public patients and the HSE looked at a number of hospitals in the Cork area but CUH was the only one to meet all the criteria in terms of its strategic position within the overall acute services and private bed stock.

CUH orthopaedic surgeon Dr Mark Dolan said the hospital is working beyond its capacity and more single room beds which minimise the risk of infection are required. The co-located hospital is the only way to provide the extra facilities in as short a time as possible, he said.

Green Party councillor Chris O’Leary said the Beacon facility would add significantly to traffic problems in an area which is already congested, resulting in unauthorised parking which would disrupt local residents.

Mr O’Leary said the development would take up valuable space on a site which is restricted by an Irish Aviation Authority guidance that requires no further development on the main route for Cork Airport which runs over the western side of the campus.

Eamon Cashell, chairman of the Laburnum/Wilton Residents Association, told the hearing that the choice of site within the CUH campus was the farthest from the hospital entrance on Bishopstown Road and thus likely to lead to greater traffic.

It was also the site closest to houses and while Beacon had laid great emphasis on the design, it remained a large structure being 153m long and 23m high. “Its sheer scale outside our back doors that causes our angst that has us here today,” he said.

Cllr Mick Barry of the Socialist Party questioned who would control the buildings and lands in the event of the collapse of the project at some future date. He asked whether the banks could end up controlling the development.

The Irish Times

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