THE CONSTRUCTION of the controversial new national children’s hospital on the Mater site in central Dublin is to be fast-tracked through the planning process, it has emerged.
The change in approach means the project will not be scrutinised by Dublin city council planners and a planning application will go directly to Bord Pleanála instead.
Minister for Health Mary Harney told the Dáil last April that the development board for the project, formally known as the National Paediatric Hospital, would submit a design application to the council in June 2010. This was later pushed back to August, when a media briefing for the proposals was planned.
However, no application was submitted and the development board last week heard that the application would now go directly to Bord Pleanála. The change in approach was attributed to recent amendments to planning legislation which are now Government policy, and board members were told the project team was evaluating the impact of the legislation on the project.
A spokesman for the development board yesterday confirmed the new approach. He said certain healthcare projects could now be considered under strategic infrastructure legislation, since the Government enacted a change to the planning laws at the end of July. The children’s hospital project qualified as strategic infrastructure because it was both strategic and of national importance, he said.
Engagement with Bord Pleanála on the planning application will not now happen until September 29th.
The plan to construct a new national children’s hospital beside the Mater hospital has been widely criticised by groups who claim the site is unsuitable. Most recently, 25 leading medical specialists expressed opposition after leading cardiologist Maurice Neligan said he had changed his mind and now favoured development on a greenfield site. “It would have been prudent if the proposed plan for the development and its access had been made available for public scrutiny,” Mr Neligan said.
Meanwhile, Phil Shovlin, a key aide of former HSE boss Brendan Drumm since 2006, has been appointed the next chief executive of Temple Street children’s hospital. Ms Shovlin trained as a nurse and was chief executive of St Vincent’s private hospital in Dublin from 1999 to 2002. She worked as services planner with the North Western Health Board in 2002-2005 before taking up the post of director of the chief executive’s office in the HSE.
At Temple Street, which will be subsumed into the National Paediatric Hospital when it is built, she succeeds Paul Cunniffe, who held the post of chief executive for 29 years.