Review panel 'not allowed' refer to ideal greenfield site in final report
Published 25/02/2012 | 05:00
THE head of a review panel for the national children's hospital has claimed a recommendation that a greenfield site was "ideal" was dropped because identifying a new site wasn't allowed.
The group's final report, published last August, went on to back plans to build the 585-bed facility on the Mater Hospital site in Dublin, but Bord Pleanala rejected the plans on Thursday.
The independent review panel was chaired by UK-based academic Jonathan Erskine.
In an email marked "confidential", sent last June, Mr Erskine told panel members he was dropping a paragraph saying a greenfield site would be "the ideal location" for the project.
Mr Erskine, executive director of the European Health Property Network told the Irish Independent yesterday his role was a "formal one" of chairing meetings of the financial-review group and liaising with the separate clinical-review group.
"We were, of course, concerned to ensure the review panel adhered to the terms of reference which were explicit in stating that the review was not a site-selection exercise and that the comparative element was solely concerned with the three alternative notional sites," he said.
"That may have been the reason for rejecting the text. Beyond that I can't really comment," he added.
The final report effectively backed the decision to build the hospital at the Mater site and this paved the way for the Government to pledge to fund it in September.
But the review panel's draft report contained a paragraph that was later dropped. "The ideal location would be located on green space, provide for unfettered access, accommodate research and educational activity, provide sufficient space to ensure the aggregation of all patient-care services meeting current and future requirements, and be tri-located with an adult tertiary care and a maternity facility," it said.
In the email, Mr Erskine said he removed the relevant paragraph because of his concern that, if it was included, "the response will simply be that there is such an ideal site, and the issue will open up again".
Dr Roisin Healy, the retired Crumlin Hospital consultant who is part of a group opposed to the Mater site questioned why he included officials from the Department of Health and the HSE in the email correspondence as the group was supposed to be independent.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health insisted yesterday that the work of the international review group was carried out on a completely independent basis.
"The email under discussion today was an email from Jonathan Erskine to the international heads of the Paediatric Hospitals.
"It was (copied) to the administrative support team in the department for reference only. The department at no stage had any part in the process other than one of a support administrative role."