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According to the statement from the Group, the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board, the three children’s hospitals and St James’s, there are “many reasons” why the campus shared with St James’s is the right location.
The “primary” one is that it has “the greatest number of clinical specialties that will best support our teams in the delivery of better services and clinical outcomes for our sickest children and young people”.
The statement added that this critical level of clinical support is “not available at Connolly Hospital”.
Construction work for the first phase of the project is scheduled to commence within a matter of weeks, it said.
The statement included a section titled “addressing some myths”. In this section, it underlined that Connolly does not have “the range and right type of clinical specialities and sub-specialties required to support the new children’s hospital”.
It said hundreds of millions of euro and many years of capital and HR investment would be required to bring it to the necessary level before it could be considered medically appropriate as a co-location alternative, “not to mention a reconfiguration of services across all the leading Dublin teaching hospitals. To continue suggesting that it is an appropriate alternative is erroneous and misleading.”
The statement added that claims that the new children’s hospital could be developed at Connolly Hospital quicker and cheaper are not true. “No costings have been considered for an alternative site, however, the inevitable much longer timeline which would ensue – and construction inflation – would be expected to have a significant impact on project costs and this, together with expenditure on the project to date, would exceed any hypothetical savings that supposedly could be obtained from building on a greenfield site.
“Recommencing the planning process would also mean that construction on the hospital would not commence until 2019 /2020 – at the earliest – which is when the new children’s hospital on a shared campus with St James’s Hospital will be near completion.”
On the issue of “room for expansion”, it said the new children’s hospital has been designed to meet projected child population growth and unmet clinical need. “The campus at St James’s Hospital has in excess of 50 acres of land. Twelve acres are being made available for the new children’s hospital and the site has been designed for future expansion. The new children’s hospital design is based on meticulous healthcare planning which will result in a facility which can provide for very significant expansion (25-30 per cent) in delivery of healthcare. Beyond this, a further 20 per cent expansion capacity has been identified outside of the current building footprint.”
Following this statement, another statement was issued on behalf of Professors of Paediatrics, Prof Owen Smith (UCD), Prof Eleanor Molloy (TCD), and Prof Alf Nicholson (RCSI).
“We, the three Professors of Paediatrics in three of the Dublin universities, collectively endorse the campus at St James’s Hospital (SJH) as the right location for the new children’s hospital, which also accommodates paediatric academic and research facilities. This campus is unparalleled in the academic opportunity it presents not just for paediatrics but the wider health system.
“The speciality of paediatrics already collaborate across the universities. The research community in the existing three children’s hospitals have already well recognised research capabilities and by tri-locating these with SJH and the Coombe Women’s and Infants University Hospital, who both have a strong record in healthcare research, will create a cadre of research capabilities that will offer the potential to make real changes, new treatments and possible new cures to the most complex diseases experienced by our children, mothers and adults for future generations.”
Speaking after An Bord Pleanala’s approval of planning permission in April, then Minister for Health Leo Varadkar told RTÉ radio that “short of an asteroid hitting the planet” the €700 million hospital would be built by 2020.
In recent weeks, the campaign organisation Connolly for Kids Hospital has intensified its opposition to the proposed St James’s site. It believes a site at Connolly offers better access and space.
In an announcement on its Facebook page earlier today, it stated: “With 60,000 signatures (and counting!) to our name, we are asking the government to hold a public hearing by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children into the decision on the location of the new children’s hospital in the coming weeks.”
The Connolly for Kids Hospital campaign pointed out that, in the United Kingdom, petitions which reach 100,000 signatures are “almost always debated in the houses of parliament (population of UK is 64 million)”.
The group added: “In Switzerland, a motion with 100,000 signatures automatically triggers a referendum (population of 8 million). In Ireland, we now have 60,000 signatures in a population of 4.5 million.”
Retired paediatric oncologist Dr Fin Breathnach, who is part of the campaign, said: “The Government’s stated reason for choosing the St James’s site for the National Paediatric Hospital is that the clinical outcomes for the children will be better if the children’s hospital is collocated with the adult St James’s Hospital. There is not a scintilla of scientific evidence to support this claim. The one collocation which will result in lives being saved; that of the children’s hospital with a maternity hospital, is being jeopardised by the Government’s blind perseverance with this deeply flawed site. We believe that the likelihood of a maternity hospital ever being built on this constricted site is extremely unlikely.
“Every year babies with severe congenital heart disease and other potentially curable conditions such as congenital diaphragmatic hernia die principally because of the need for ambulance transfer. If a collocated maternity hospital is not built, then it is inevitable that babies will continue to die each year during the planned, 100-year lifespan of the children’s hospital.
“While McKinsey stated that ‘ideally’ one should collocate a Children’s Hospital with an adult hospital they noted that ‘International experience shows that it is important to weigh a decision to co-locate against pragmatic considerations, including: space and quality of access to potential sites; cultural and managerial fit with the adult hospital; and the quality of managed service provision on the adult site’. That advice has been ignored.”