Sunday 25 March 2018

Children's hospital too high for helipad on rooftop

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

PLANS to build a helipad on the roof of the proposed new national children's hospital have had to be scrapped because it would be unusable during high winds, the Irish Independent has learned.

Internal correspondence revealed that serious concerns about the proposed helipad -- which could not be used "approximately 28pc" of the time -- were expressed to Health Minister James Reilly in April.

Dr Pat Doherty, a consultant in critical care medicine who is a member of the development board overseeing the hospital, wrote to the minister warning that it represented a serious constraint for the transfer of critically ill children, both within and outside the State.

He cautioned that "helicopter transfers are likely to be the preferred form of transport for children to the UK".

The board has now tendered for builders of the new 16-storey hospital, which is due to be constructed on the campus of the Mater Hospital in Dublin and scheduled to open in 2016.

It has lodged planning permission through a fast-track system with An Bord Pleanala but an application to construct the helipad has yet to be submitted.

A spokesman for the development board confirmed that the original site for the helipad had to be shelved and it was now planned to put it on the roof of the Mater Hospital.

He said because the new hospital would be so high, the helipad would be vulnerable to certain thresholds of wind movement and turbulence.

"When they carried out testing, there were a number of days in the year when the wind flows would prohibit flying. So it has been decided to put it on the roof of the adult Mater Hospital, which is built at a lower level."

Dr Doherty, in his letter to the minister, also warned that the cost of the information technology computer systems needed at the hospital had not been included in the €650m costing for the facility.

He said this could cost in the region of €70m and it was essential for the link-up between the main hospital at the Mater site and the emergency care which would be provided for children in Tallaght Hospital several miles away.

The development board spokesman said this had not yet been costed because it was being looked at by the information technology team at the Health Service Executive (HSE) who would decide how the hospitals' computers would integrate with existing systems.

Other areas of concern highlighted with the minister included the delay in setting out a workforce plan in the light of the huge difficulties which would be encountered merging staff from the three hospitals -- Temple Street, Crumlin Hospital and Tallaght Hospital -- which would amalgamate in the new facility.


The correspondence, released under the Freedom of Information Act, also revealed the concerns of the Department of Health that €550,000 to €650,000 a month would be spent on the planning, design and business team fees, while a review of the site was being carried out last June.

At that point, €28m had already been spent on preparatory work for the proposed hospital. Another €4m was spent to bring the project to a stage where it could be submitted for planning permission and then go to tender.

The announcement by the Minister for Health in November that the project would be funded through the National Lottery and other means allowed the board to place a tender for firms to construct and design the hospital.

The tender states the work should be finished in four years. A new chief executive for the project has yet to be appointed following the departure of Eilish Hardiman, who left to take over the running of Tallaght Hospital.

Irish Independent

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