Monday 21 August 2017

Metro North threatens to derail fertility treatments

Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Women undergoing sensitive fertility treatments in Dublin's Rotunda Hospital will be put at risk from the vibrations generated by the Metro North railway, it has emerged.

Metro North is the light railway system planned for Dublin and it will run from St Stephen's Green to Dublin airport.

The hospital sought planning permission to build a new fertility unit before work on the nearby metro site is scheduled to start early next year. Fears about the impact which the intensive construction work would have on women in the clinic prompted a bid by the hospital's board to fast-track the building of a new unit further away.

The Rotunda Hospital's fertility clinic, the Human Assisted Reproduction Ireland (HARI) unit, has overseen the birth of 4,000 babies since it opened under Dr Robert Harrison in the late 1980s.

The hospital's board of governors were so concerned that they used the new fast-track mechanism to make a planning application directly to An Bord Pleanala.

The application said it needed to build the new unit ahead of the start-up of the metro construction in early 2012. They utilised the "strategic infrastructure status" to go directly to An Bord Pleanala but they have now been told that their application does not qualify.

The hospital argued its HARI clinic would be affected by the disruption from the metro construction and the vibrations it would generate would "inhibit key vibration-sensitive procedures" being carried out there.

It needs to re-locate the existing facility in advance of the railway construction works and build a new unit which would include an operating theatre, procedure rooms, recovery areas, laboratory, consultation and examination rooms.

An Bord Pleanala decided, however, that the facility was not a strategic infrastructure and directed that its board make a planning application in the normal manner.

During previous oral hearings into the Metro North plan, An Bord Pleanala said the hospital had justifiable concerns about the potential impact of the development on the HARI unit, private and semi-private clinics, the neonatal unit, and other services within the hospital complex.

It was acknowledged that, if things were to proceed as proposed, this would require the hospital to relocate a wide range of services within the hospital grounds.

The ground-borne noise level would be high impact if tunnelling took place at night and medium impact at other times.

Also, vibrations would be strongest at night and low impact by day. Ground-borne noise would have a high impact in the nearby Gate Theatre during performances too.

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