Saturday 17 March 2018

Children's charity CEO voices concerns over proposed children's hospital

Jonathan Irwin
Jonathan Irwin

Clodagh Sheehy

The head of an organisation for children born with life threatening and severely debilitating conditions, has voiced his concerns over plans for a new Children’s Hospital on the St James’s campus in Dublin.

Jonathan Irwin said the new hospital project “is not primarily about sick children, it is about the vanities of adults".

He also claimed the project was a "total disaster".

Mr Irwin, with his wife, Senator Mary Ann O’Brien, set up the Jack and Jill Children’s Foundation in 1997 after their death of their own 22-month-old baby son Jack.

In a submission to the An Bord Pleanala hearing for the new National Children’s Hospital, Mr Irwin explained:  “Mary Ann and I spent much of Jack’s short life racing to Crumlin - at least reasonably close to the M50 - with our baby, who could die at any moment.

“I cannot conceive of the horror of contemplating the drive to St James’s in the centre of Dublin in this era of traffic lock down in Dublin on a regular basis.”

His organisation took care of more sick children nationwide than any other charitable organisation and was “omitted from the consultation process”

They had been refused a guided tour of the suggested site on four occasions.

He also raised concerns over parking for staff.

The Linear Park at the new hospital, said Mr Irwin was a strip of lawn between the campus and the Luas.  Referring to the Roof Gardens he added: “just wait till the helicopters come clattering in”.

His Foundation could not “accept a vague promise” that the Coombe maternity hospital would be moved to “the small remaining surface car park at James”.

He wanted an explanation as to why the Rotunda maternity hospital was being moved out of the city centre and at the same time very sick children were being moved “into a most congested and polluted city”.

Mr Irwin stressed that “the real heartbeat of the National Children’s Hospital are the children themselves and their parents.

“This is not an office block, hotel, conference centre, Prison or a Third runway at Dublin airport. It is a specialist Hospital for sick children proposed to be built at a site totally rejected by their parents.”

The decision to site it on the St James”s campus was “without doubt a political decision” and he appealed to parents to ask themselves “why is James’ being pedalled as the optimum site?”

He asked An Bord Pleanala not to let the children and their families down and to listen to them, not the politicians.

Meanwhile, an air quality expert told the hearing earlier today that air pollution at the new Children’s Hospital site was likely to be four times higher than estimated.

This was “a major concern given the National Children’s Hospital will cater for sick children with compromised immune systems and limited ability to cope with additional stresses such as air pollution” said Dr Imelda Shanahan of TMS Environmental.

The new energy centre for the Children’s Hospital, which would also serve St James’s Hospital, would have the most dramatic impact on air quality on the site, she added.

Pollution levels depended on the amount of energy used and the type of fuel that was used.  Oil, for example, gave off more pollution than natural gas.

Dr Shanahan calculated that the emissions from the proposed new energy centre  would be four times higher than the figures given in the original Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) from the applicants.

The energy needs of the site would more than double with the addition of the Children’s Hospital and  would almost treble with the addition of a maternity hospital on the site.

She believed that the overall energy needs of the campus and the resultant emissions might be so high as to require a special industrial emissions licence.

Dr Shanahan told the An Bord Pleanala hearing into the Children’s Hospital development that air quality on the proposed campus was poorer than almost anywhere outside the city centre.

Making a submission on behalf of the Jack and Jill Foundation, she said World Health Organisation guidelines had not been formally considered in the EIS.

She believed the air quality assessment undertaken for the application was inadequate and the findings were flawed and inaccurate.

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