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Explainer: Cabinet to decide on children's hospital, but what are the options?

It now appears likely that a site near the Coombe Hospital in south Dublin city will be chosen for the long-awaited hospital.

Health Minister James Reilly will bring his recommendation to Cabinet tomorrow.
Health Minister James Reilly will bring his recommendation to Cabinet tomorrow.
Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

IT IS EXPECTED that the decision on the long-awaited National Children’s Hospital will go before the Cabinet tomorrow with the usual veil of secrecy surrounding discussions.

At issue is the location of the facility which has been the subject of an independent review in the wake of An Bord Pleanála rejecting the proposed site at the Mater Hospital earlier this year.

Following this rejection, Health Minister James Reilly set up a review group which was chaired by the HSE chairman Frank Dolphin. This group was tasked with establishing the options now available to the government.

That rejection further delayed the much-needed hospital and now it is likely that even if a decision is made on foot of discussions among government ministers tomorrow it will take some three to three-and-a-half years before the hospital is built.

As it compiled its report, the Dolphin review group received a range of submissions.

These included proposals for a site of the Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital, a site near St James’s Hospital, a site on an area of land near the Phoenix Park, a site in Tallaght, and a site on greenfield area near Dublin Airport.

There was also a proposal submitted for a revised development at the site of the Mater.

The Dolphin report was handed to James Reilly on 8 June but its contents have been kept a closely guarded secret since then.

But following a leak of the report to RTÉ News, it is now known that Health Minister James Reilly is likely to recommend that the hospital be built on a site in and around St James’s Hospital in the south of the city with the hospital linked to the Coombe Maternity Hospital.

Delays

RTÉ got its hands on the Dolphin Report last week but despite the details of the report coming out, the Department of Health has said it won’t be publishing the report until the government has already made its decision.

That decision is reportedly going to be that the hospital will be built on a 20 acre site beside the Coombe Hospital in the south inner city. This facility would be run jointly with St James’s, the Irish Independent reports.

Previously it had been speculated that a site near St James’s was most likely but there are concerns about the planning difficulties this could create and the disruption it could cause during the construction process.

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Already some €70 million has been spent on the site at the Mater hospital that was ruled out by the planning board and yesterday, the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board appeared to be staking a late claim for the site, with a revised development, not to be disregarded.

The Board, which is responsible for developing the children’s hospital project, warned that “a project delay if 2.5 years can be anticipated should an alternative site be chosen for the children’s hospital”.

In an unpublished memo it said that moving the project to another location would cost some €120 million to €140 million.

The Dolphin report also reportedly says that that the hospital could be built near Connolly Hospital in west Dublin.

This would be faster – stripping some six to nine months off the construction time – but the site would not offer the same range of medical specialities that sites near the Mater or St James’s would.

At the moment it appears the site near the Coombe is the likely choice for the hospital but the amount of speculation surrounding the issue in recent weeks means nothing will be certain until the men and women round the Cabinet table are in agreement.

Read: Dublin City Council “satisfied” with proposed locations for Children’s Hospital

Read: Department denies report of further review of Children’s Hospital

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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