Saturday 1 October 2016

Doctor: Location of new Children’s Hospital is 'the worst possible site'

Clodagh Sheehy

Published 09/12/2015 | 09:55

A model of the new children's hospital that was made in August
A model of the new children's hospital that was made in August

Dr James Sheehan, the man responsible for the development of the Blackrock Clinic in Dublin has described the proposed location for the new Children’s Hospital as “the worst possible site”.

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The orthopaedic surgeon and engineer believes it is “absolute and utter madness for the future or our children” to build the new facility on the St James’s Hospital campus.

In and address to the An Bord Pleanala hearing on the development, Dr Sheehan said the St James’s campus was overcrowded, had little potential for expansion as a “land-locked” site in a densely built up area and it would be “catastrophic” to build there.

Dr Sheehan told the hearing he was there in a “purely private capacity” as a concerned citizen, parent and grandparent and as someone who “has spent the last 58 years in medicine”.

He said he was unbiased with “no vested interest in any of the sites” suggested for the new hospital.

He had been involved in the development of the Blackrock, Galway and Hermitage clinics and was “very much involved in the design and construction” of all of these.

Over the past 34 years since Blackrock was built “parking has been the single biggest problem in terms of patient and relative’s complaints.”

Dr Sheehan admitted that in each of the three clinics parking had been “grossly underestimated” and the site for the new Children’s Hospital was “starting with an absolutely disastrous situation based purely on parking”.

At the Blackrock Clinic they were forced to treble the spaces and were “still underserved” with three to four parking slots per in-patient bed. 

In Galway the addition of a 500 space multi-storey car park still left them with problems going into the future and at the Heritage clinic the parking was “totally chaotic” with cars “streaming all over the place”, he added.

In terms of future expansion, the retired surgeon explained that they had doubled the size of the Blackrock site by buying extra land and now had a “multiplicity of new areas in the hospital never considered initially”.

The Galway Clinic had been opened as a state-of-the-art facility 11 and a half years ago and had since needed a two storey addition.

It was “absolute and utter madness for the future of our children” to try and fit the new hospital on the tightly crammed St James’s campus.

Dr Sheehan pointed to the campus  of Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown, on more than 150 acres, which already had an adult hospital on site with plans for the Rotunda Maternity Hospital to move there.

“I can’t see any possibility for a maternity hospital every being squeezed onto” the St James’s site.

Building the new Children’s Hospital at Blanchardstown made more sense with room for future expansion, he said.

Children did not like being high rise buildings when they were sick and the Blanchardstown site offered the opportunity for building  5-6 storey hospital, with all patient rooms facing south-west with views  and access to large green areas.

It would offer “as much surface parking as you want - room for whatever you want over the next 50-100 years.”

This plan was for the next 100 years and “with a lot of new modalities in 50 years hospital will be a totally different place with huge emphasis on molecular medicine and genotyping.”

Unless there was allowance for expansion “you are planning for obsolescence in a very short period”, he stressed.

Dr Sheehan believed that the new hospital could be built at Blanchardstown more quickly and cheaply than at St James’s with proper planning.

The Blackrock Clinic had been built in 10 months and the Galway clinic took 15 months from design to completion he said.

He believed the decision to locate at St James’s was “a political, not a medical decision. Medics would not have been mad enough”, he concluded.The orthopaedic surgeon and engineer believes it is “absolute and utter madness for the future or our children” to build the new facility on the St James’s Hospital campus.

In and address to the An Bord Pleanala hearing on the development, Dr Sheehan said the St James’s campus was overcrowded, had little potential for expansion as a “land-locked” site in a densely built up area and it would be “catastrophic” to build there.

Dr Sheehan told the hearing he was there in a “purely private capacity” as a concerned citizen, parent and grandparent and as someone who “has spent the last 58 years in medicine”.

He said he was unbiased with “no vested interest in any of the sites” suggested for the new hospital.

He had been involved in the development of the Blackrock, Galway and Hermitage clinics and was “very much involved in the design and construction” of all of these.

Over the past 34 years since Blackrock was built “parking has been the single biggest problem in terms of patient and relative’s complaints.”

Dr Sheehan admitted that in each of the three clinics parking had been “grossly underestimated” and the site for the new Children’s Hospital was “starting with an absolutely disastrous situation based purely on parking”.

At the Blackrock Clinic they were forced to treble the spaces and were “still underserved” with three to four parking slots per in-patient bed. 

In Galway the addition of a 500 space multi-storey car park still left them with problems going into the future and at the Heritage clinic the parking was “totally chaotic” with cars “streaming all over the place”, he added.

In terms of future expansion, the retired surgeon explained that they had doubled the size of the Blackrock site by buying extra land and now had a “multiplicity of new areas in the hospital never considered initially”.

The Galway Clinic had been opened as a state-of-the-art facility 11 and a half years ago and had since needed a two storey addition.

It was “absolute and utter madness for the future of our children” to try and fit the new hospital on the tightly crammed St James’s campus.

Dr Sheehan pointed to the campus  of Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown, on more than 150 acres, which already had an adult hospital on site with plans for the Rotunda Maternity Hospital to move there.

“I can’t see any possibility for a maternity hospital every being squeezed onto” the St James’s site.

Building the new Children’s Hospital at Blanchardstown made more sense with room for future expansion, he said.

Children did not like being high rise buildings when they were sick and the Blanchardstown site offered the opportunity for building  5-6 storey hospital, with all patient rooms facing south-west with views  and access to large green areas.

It would offer “as much surface parking as you want - room for whatever you want over the next 50-100 years.”

This plan was for the next 100 years and “with a lot of new modalities in 50 years hospital will be a totally different place with huge emphasis on molecular medicine and genotyping.”

Unless there was allowance for expansion “you are planning for obsolescence in a very short period”, he stressed.

Dr Sheehan believed that the new hospital could be built at Blanchardstown more quickly and cheaply than at St James’s with proper planning.

The Blackrock Clinic had been built in 10 months and the Galway clinic took 15 months from design to completion he said.

He believed the decision to locate at St James’s was “a political, not a medical decision. Medics would not have been mad enough”, he concluded.

Car park charges of between €5 and €7 and hour would be needed at the proposed new Children’s Hospital to manage the demand for spaces, a traffic expert has claimed.

Ciaran McKeon, MD of Transport Insights, said limited number of spaces for both staff and visitors meant that the hospital would have to rely on street parking around the campus to meet the needs.

Mr McKeon was making a submission on behalf of the Jack and Jill Foundation to the An Bord Pleanala hearing for the new hospital

He said the transport strategy proposed for the hospital failed to consider end user needs, mainly patients, visitors and staff and the traffic rates had been “substantially underestimated”.

The applicant’s calculation that 16 visitors would use the car park at any one time was “an incredibly low level and lacks credibility in my view”.

The only way the proposed staff parking limits could be achieved was through an increase in off-site parking or at the park-and-ride facilities at the Red Cow and Cheeverstown which would in turn displace other users, he said.

The plan to encourage staff to use public transport, added Mr McKeon, would be hindered by a wide range of external factors like deficiencies in public transport and public cycle facilities  which would take years to address.

The Luas Red Line, said Mr McKeon,  had not been demonstrated to have sufficient capacity currently or in the future to accommodate up to 35pc of staff  - 1,750 staff every weekday. Buses suffered from significant periods of delay at peak times.

Mr Donal McDaid, engineer for the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board said a smarter travel plan for staff at the Mater hospital had reduced staff car spaces from 600 to 100 and showed what such a programme could deliver.

Richie O’Reilly of the Tallaght Hospital Action Group questioned how the existing St James’s adult hospital would be able to expand in the future once the new Children’s Hospital was also on site.

The group, he said was “very worried about access to the car park”.

Mr O’Reilly explained that he grew up beside Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin where his sister still lived.

There were car parking shortages at the Crumlin hospital and “I have witnessed mothers driving up and down trying to get parking and having to walk from far away to the hospital.”

He said when his sister saw someone in distress looking for a space she invited them to use her driveway and “she has thank-you letters from all over Ireland for this”.

Noise expert Diarmuid Keaney of ICAN Acoustices, for the Jack and Jill Foundation said there had been a "gross underestimation" of the noise duration for a medivac helicopter arriving at the hospital.

The noise generated by a helicopter which would run on the helipad for extended periods had not been predicted, nor the impact of larger helicopters landing in the future.

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