Friday 28 July 2017

New children’s hospital: Mater bid back on after nuns’ offer

The Mater Hospital in Dublin
the original plan for the National Children's Hospital on the Mater site, which was rejected by An Bord Pleanala because the proposed 16-floor building was too high

Sam Smyth

THE Mater Hospital is once again the preferred location for the new children's hospital following a dramatic last-minute offer from the religious order which owns the north inner-city Dublin site.

The Irish Independent has learned that the Sisters of Mercy agreed to include the old Mater adult hospital in discussions for a new plan to beat the 56-day deadline set by the Government last month.

The use of the old adult hospital would allow architects to reduce the number of floors of the new hospital after An Bord Pleanala refused planning permission because the proposed 16-floor building was too high.

Meanwhile, the Master of the Rotunda confirmed today that the Mater, Rotunda and Temple Street hospitals are working together to rescue the national children's hospital, planned for the for the Mater site in Eccles Street.

Dr Sam Coulter-Smith said the three hospitals are keen that the Mater would be the site of the new children’s hospital and have been working together for some time to provide an efficient and better service.

He has said new plans would include adult, maternity and paediatric services on one site.

And he said these new plans would answer issues in relation to the height and density of the hospital as it was originally designed before the plans were rejected by An Bord Pleanala in February.

It is understood that the Sisters of Mercy offer of the old adult hospital follows their concern that further delays could mean the new children's hospital would be built on another site. "The sisters were very worried about their legacy after all the dedication and service they have given on the Mater," said a source close to the order.

The sisters have been associated with the Mater, a voluntary Catholic hospital, for more than 150 years.

The nuns' offer of the old Victorian cut-stone adult hospital with an inner garden square returns the Mater site to the position of preferred location for the new children's hospital.

A member of the development committee said: "The new adult Mater hospital will open in the next month and if the children's hospital is restored to the site they sit with the maternity hospital in a tri-location centre of excellence."

The National Children's Hospital Development Committee, which has responsibility for delivering the project, will include the breakthrough in new proposals to the review group set up to recommend the final site. It has already been reported that the committee has been in contact with An Bord Pleanala.

On March 16, the nine-person group, headed by Dr Frank Dolphin, was ordered to make a recommendation on a site for the new children's hospital within 56-days. It is understood that Health Minister James Reilly has been told about the breakthrough in the long drawn-out saga.

Plans to sell off the National Lottery were given as proof of the Government's determination to fund the children's hospital project.

The development committee has also had talks with Dublin City Council planners to allay fears of parking and traffic congestion around the Mater site.

Plans for a 1,000-space underground car park below the new children's hospital will work alongside council plans for clearways in Eccles Street and other surrounding thoroughfares, according to sources. A member of the Children's Hospital Development Committee said that if the new proposals were accepted by the review group, it could still be built with the €650m budget on schedule. The chairman of the development committee, Harry Crosbie, could not be reached for comment last night.

Responding to the news, Dr Roisin Healy of the National Children’s Hospital Alliance said that there should be a proper scoring sytem set up to assess all proposals, while Dr Sam Coulter -Smith, the Master of the Rotunda Hospital, said the plans would put the Mater forward again as the pre-eminent site for development

“I suppose what’s new about this plan is that it answers the height and density issues that were raised by the planners… We feel this new plan is the way forward.”

A spokesman for the Sisters of Mercy said they would not be commenting on the issue.

Irish Independent

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