Saturday 18 November 2017

Building to begin on children's hospital next summer

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

THE first sod for the new national children's hospital in Dublin's north inner city should finally be turned before next summer -- subject to planning permission and funding.

The planning application to build the €650m hospital on the site of the Mater Hospital was submitted yesterday to An Bord Pleanala by the development board overseeing the controversial project.

A key element of the application involves proposals to improve access to the hospital and ease congestion around the site, one of the main problems cited by opponents of the Mater location.

Engineer Tony Horan said he carried out a detailed traffic assessment and had proposed several measures aimed at reducing pressure on Eccles Street, the hospital's main entrance.

"These include a second access point to the car park on the North Circular Road, the removal of some of the on-street parking in Eccles Street, and creating a four-lane access road at the front of the hospital," he said.

The 445-bed hospital will also have an underground car park with capacity for 972 cars. It it is expected there will be around 4,000 inward and outward motor journeys to the hospital daily.

The 16-storey building, designed by O'Connell Mahon Architects, which will incorporate the three existing children's hospitals, is scheduled to open in 2016.

However, it first has to get the green light from planners -- and, crucially, the required €450m in funding from the cash-strapped Government has to be in place. The Government is expected to make it a priority even if other capital projects have to be sacrificed.

Architect Sean Mahon, who unveiled the plans yesterday, said it was designed to allow for expansion. "Temple St Hospital will also be made available for children's hospital functions in the future. This is separate to the proposed maternity hospital, which will be a separate development."

Board chief executive Eilish Hardiman said they would know by September if the funding had been agreed. It is expected that around €11m of the Government's investment will be needed to cover 'enabling' works at the hospital over the next 12 months.

But until it goes to tender the building cost per year has not been finalised.

The project will create up to 1,500 construction jobs. The development board is hopeful it will get the planning go-ahead with around €30m already spent on the project. It is costing €250,000 to pay staff and fund contracts with design teams and other experts.

Medical director Dr Alf Nicholson said it would include proper accommodation for parents who currently have to sit in chairs or lie on mattresses in multibed wards in the existing children's hospitals.

The upper level will contain children's wards which are all light-filled single rooms overlooking the city. It will have 392 in-patient beds and 53 day-care beds.

The middle tier is a green landscaped area known as a therapy park, while the lower levels will incorporate the emergency department.

An ambulatory and urgent care facility will be opened in Tallaght Hospital and a submission is in place to have this available round the clock to prevent unnecessary admissions to the main hospital.

Ms Hardiman said the new hospital could be run with 2,700 staff, which is less than the combined total in the existing three children's hospitals.

The public can make submissions to An Bord Pleanala until September 14.

An oral hearing is due in December or January with a decision before next May.

Irish Independent

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