Thursday 27 October 2016

Planning permission not sought after three years

Published 16/02/2016 | 02:30

The National Maternity Hospital on Holles Street
The National Maternity Hospital on Holles Street

It's almost three years since former Health Minister James Reilly announced that after a campaign lasting two decades, the National Maternity Hospital in Holles St would move to a new purpose-built building on the campus of St Vincent's Hospital a few miles away.

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But not a sod has been turned - in fact, the public would be surprised to hear that planning permission has not even been lodged.

In the meantime, the hospital, which caters for the sickest babies and pregnant women with some of the most complex conditions, is housed in a cramped and antiquated building which is an infection risk.

Inspectors from Hiqa, who made an unannounced visit in October, were sharply critical of the chronic overcrowding and staffing deficiencies which "appear to be tolerated and accepted as the day-to-day reality for the hospital".

They were again told the new state-of-art facility was on the horizon.

At that stage, planning permission for the new hospital was to be submitted at the end of 2015. But it was still unclear last night why this timeline has failed to materialise, given the urgency involved in having a new hospital.

Last year, planning for the development was stalled.

The St Vincent's Healthcare Group, which owns the land on which it will be built, wanted assurances it would be integrated into the campus and not just co-located.

It already accommodates the private and public hospital on the site.

Discussions have since resumed but the 2018 target date set by Dr Reilly will not be met.

Hiqa's report of its inspection of Holles St is quite explicit in warning about the multiple risks identified by its inspectors, which it said must be effectively managed until the new hospital is ready.

Around 40,000 babies will be born in Holles St in the meantime.

Holles St, like other major maternity hospitals, has maintained its standards in the face of major cuts in funding over the years.

It is still short of midwives and obstetricians.

The cuts were imposed as the country faced a baby boom.

The Hiqa report delivers a clear message to whatever new government is formed about the need to put patient safety first.

Irish Independent

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