Tuesday 5 July 2011

Report for Minister to back Mater site as best location for children's hospital

AN INDEPENDENT review of the controversial decision to locate the new national children’s hospital on the site of Dublin’s Mater hospital has affirmed the correct site was chosen for the development.

The report of the review team, which included the chief executives of four children’s hospitals in Boston, Colorado, Queensland and London, was given to Minister for Health James Reilly on Friday.

While Dr Reilly is not due to announce the findings of the review until tomorrow, informed sources confirmed yesterday the review group had found the hospital should be built on the grounds of the Mater hospital.

The report of the review group is expected to be discussed at today’s Cabinet meeting.

Dr Reilly sought the review after taking over the health ministry because question marks had been raised over whether the hospital – into which Dublin’s three children’s hospitals at Crumlin, Temple Street and Tallaght will be merged – could be built for less at a different location.

It is expected to cost at least €650 million at the Mater but could cost about €50 million less if built on a greenfield site.

More than a week ago, following a visit by some of the independent review group to children’s hospitals in Dublin, it became clear they were likely to come down in favour of the Mater site. That early speculation was confirmed yesterday.

The original plan for the hospital, however, may be adjusted to reduce costs.

Some €29.3 million has already been spent on the project, which is being overseen by the national paediatric hospital development board. That board has now lost two chairmen while its chief executive, Eilish Hardiman, is due to move on later this year to take up a new job as chief executive of Tallaght Hospital.

The board’s first chairman Philip Lynch was forced to resign last October after the then minister for health Mary Harney heard he was questioning the Mater site’s suitability for the project. Its second chairman, John Gallagher, resigned in March saying he was at “risk of incurring further material ongoing costs in the project without full Government support” after it became clear Dr Reilly was considering reviewing the Mater decision.

A planning application for the development was about to be lodged with An Bord Pleanála before the review was announced.

The findings were welcomed by Fianna Fáil. Health spokesman Billy Keller expressed concern that the “ambitious” timeframe to have the hospital operational by 2015 “may not be met”.

He urged the Cabinet to immediately endorse the review’s finding “clearing the way for progress to be made on this critical project”. It was essential that “all those involved in the project” would back the finding and “move the project along”.

The move was a “significant endorsement” of the decision taken by the Fianna Fáil-led government, Mr Kelleher added.

Chairman of the New Crumlin Hospital Group Louis Roden said it was time to “get on with it” as “we’ve waited for years”. “At some stage someone has to take this by the scruff of the neck and build it,” Mr Roden told RTÉ News.

Problems of access was a “secondary issue” for parents – the main requirement was a facility which could give top quality healthcare, he said.

Mater matters: how the location issue unfolded

2006: February – Report by consultants McKinsey recommends a single world-class tertiary paediatric centre amalgamating existing hospitals. New facility to be located in Dublin adjacent to an adult hospital.

June – HSE taskforce on hospital location selects the Mater campus as the site for the new national children’s hospital. This is endorsed by government.

2006 Joint HSE/Department of Health Transition Group established to progress the development.

2007: May – National Paediatric Hospital Development Board established by then minister for health Mary Harney chaired by businessman Philip Lynch.

2009: October – Taoiseach Brian Cowen announces the appointment of architects to the project. He says the hospital will open by the end of 2014.

October – Design brief by RKW finds the number of beds required will be up to 450.

2010: October – Board chairman Philip Lynch resigns after Ms Harney hears he questions the site’s suitability for the project.

2011: March – Board’s second chairman, John Gallagher, resigns saying he is at “risk of incurring further material ongoing costs in the project without full Government support”.

March – Lynch expresses the view that the decision to locate the hospital at the Mater is a “a political decision, a northside job,” something which the HSE and Harney deny.

May – Minister for Health Dr James Reilly announces independent team to review Mater decision.

July – Dr Reilly receives the board’s report affirming the correct site was chosen for the development.

Irish Times


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