The Government decision that the new Children’s hospital be located at St. James’s is a clinically-led decision. St. James’s is Ireland’s largest, adult-teaching, research hospital. The selection of the site follows on from the Children’s Health First report of 2006 that has been re-affirmed by reviews since. One such review was carried out by a team of four CEOs form the National Association of Children’s Hospitals.
The new Children’s Hospital will be accompanied by:
- two new Paediatric Outpatients and Urgent Care Centres at Connolly Hospital and Tallaght Hospital,
- the regional paediatric units at Galway, as well as Cork and Limerick, and
- a further 13 local paediatric units
These facilities will all work together to deliver a new National Model of Care for Paediatrics. This model is based on providing medically appropriate treatment for the vast majority of children as close to home as possible.
Rigorous analysis has been carried out on the issues of access and parking. A new access point will be introduced alongside the existing two and a parking system for 1,000 cars – 675 for families – is included in the design. Furthermore, St. James’s Hospital is exceptionally well connected in terms of public transport.
I have heard the claim that it would be cheaper and faster to build this hospital at a greenfield site such as Connolly Hospital. However, the claim is not evidence-based. No detailed costing of such a project has been carried out and it is my understanding that the greenfield site has no existing infrastructure such as water, waste-water, ESB, gas, roads and so forth.
The idea that ‘flipping the site’ is possible overlooks the healthcare planning in terms of population as well as the years of planning and design that would be required. The land at Connolly is not owned by the HSE and it is not zoned for planning. Furthermore, we would need to provide substantial additional investment to upgrade or introduce services at Connolly that already exist at St. James’s.
I understand that this is an emotive issue – healthcare understandably is and particularly so for children. I am not an expert in the planning and design of a hospital – few people are – and I have to make my decision on the best available evidence from the most qualified and experienced people.
The location of the hospital at St. James’s is supported by the clinical directors and nursing directors of the existing children’s hospitals, the academics in paediatrics at Third Level institutions as well as the boards of the existing hospitals. This level of support, from such a breadth of experts and experienced personnel has convinced me that the construction of the new National Children’s Hospital should continue at St. James’s.