Thursday 23 February 2017

Hospital project hit by resignation

Contentious plans for a National Children's Hospital have been thrown into further disarray with the second resignation of a project chairman.

John Gallagher, a supporter of the Mater Hospital site in central Dublin, wrote to the Government with his decision to quit the National Paediatric Development Board.

The multimillion-euro project has been dogged by rows over the preferred site, potential costs and access difficulties since its inception.

It had been hoped to have the Mater site developed by 2015.

Health Minister James Reilly, who began reviewing the entire plan after taking office earlier this month, said he regretted Mr Gallagher's decision.

"I respect his decision and his motives, which are entirely honourable," the minister said.

"I fully understand that Mr Gallagher wants to press ahead with this important project, but I know he acknowledges that, having just become Minister for Health, I need to take sufficient time to consider all aspects of the matter."

Dr Reilly said he was examining the project carefully to make sure the best possible quality of services for children in the most cost effective way.

The development of the hospital at the Mater, including 392 en suite single rooms with beds for parents, was expected to cost €650m.

Businessman Philip Lynch, a previous board chairman, quit last October in a row over the Mater site.

He resigned after expressing concerns to then Health Minister Mary Harney about the financing and constraints of the location of the new hospital.

Ray Martin, spokesman for the New Children's Hospital Alliance - opponents of the Mater site, said the north inner city plan was always a political decision.

"We hope that this is the nail in coffin of the Mater site," Mr Martin said.

"The new Children's Hospital will have to do the children of this country for the next 50-100 years and the Mater site was always too small and too cramped.

"The building was just being shoehorned in. The review group will look at all the options nationally and we would hope that the hospital would be built on the greenfield site somewhere near the M50."

Developer Noel Smyth has offered land for the project on the western outskirts of Dublin.

Press Association

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