'Babies will die' unless maternity hospital included on children's site
Babies will die unless a maternity hospital is included on the proposed site for the new Children's Hospital, child cancer specialist Dr Fin Breatnach has warned.
Dr Breatnach also fears that the new Children's Hospital on the St James's campus is "simply incapable of meeting its intended purpose for the next 100 years".
Representing the New Children's Hospital Alliance, retired child oncologist Dr Breatnach told a Bord Pleanala hearing that the alliance "accepts overwhelmingly" the need to unite the current three children's hospitals on a single site.
The alliance is concerned, however, that the site on St James's was too constrained and would be difficult to expand, and its preference is for a large greenfield site, not one in the city centre.
He rejected the argument that the Children's Hospital needed to co-locate with an adult acute hospital.
Dr Breatnach claimed there was "absolutely no substance" to claims by Tánaiste Joan Burton and Health Minister Leo Varadkar that clinical outcomes for children would be improved by co-locating on a site with an adult hospital.
However, he stressed that co-location with a maternity hospital was "absolutely critical" for the safe transfer of over 160 high-risk infants every year from maternity hospitals.
The alliance is concerned that the building of a maternity hospital on the site "has now become optional".
"Our alliance believes the likelihood of a maternity hospital being built on this constricted site is uncertain, to say the least. If it is not built, then it is inevitable that babies will die each year as a result.
"Further preventable deaths will occur if a maternity hospital is not provided physically attached to the National Paediatric Hospital on the St James's site," he stressed.
Dr Breatnach said the plans for the hospital on the St James's campus had no ground-level gardens for patients. The roof-top garden on the fourth floor was completely surrounded by a further three storeys of hospital buildings.
There was also not enough car parking spaces for either staff or patients, he added.
Parking for staff was "grossly inadequate" considering many nurses currently commuted from satellite towns which have poor public transport services.
Families also needed adequate parking as private cars were likely to remain the preferred choice both for parents living locally and those having to travel long distances - who often had to bring other children with them in addition to the patient.
Dr Breatnach also explained that the most seriously ill children and their parents revisit hospital more than any other group and any deficiency would have the greatest negative impact on this group.
Space would be the single most valuable resource for the new hospital and new services in future decades would require additional space, he said.
Meanwhile, a survey of staff at the three existing children's hospitals was carried out by the alliance in October. It found that 84pc of respondents were opposed to the St James's site.
The National Paediatric Hospital Development Board (NPHDB) objected to the survey being presented at the hearing yesterday, saying it was "cursory" and "entirely unscientific".
In a statement released following the hearing, the NPHDB said 257 individual survey responses were received or collated. In October, 3,447 staff were employed across the three hospitals, representing a response rate of 7.45pc.
It claimed there was no evidence that the 257 figure represented unique individual responses and that the survey may be completed multiple times by any individual.