Wednesday 25 April 2018

New children's hospital will not be open until the end of 2018, admits board

The report included a child's drawing of what the ideal children's hospital would look like
The report included a child's drawing of what the ideal children's hospital would look like
The cover of the National Children's Hospital report
The proposed layout of the St James's Hospital campus

Eilish O'Regan and Paul Melia

THE high-powered body responsible for building the new National Children's Hospital has contradicted claims by Health Minister Dr James Reilly that it will open by spring 2018.

Details of the project -- which were presented by the hospital board on Monday -- are contained in documents obtained by the Irish Independent. They show that the facility will be delayed by at least six months.

Medical services will not be transferred to the new hospital until the end of 2018, despite Dr Reilly saying that it would be ready to open in the spring of that year.

The long-awaited facility for sick children was originally supposed to be ready in 2012.

Details of how the hospital, which is expected to cost €600m, will be delivered are contained in a presentation for companies that was given at an open day in the office of legal firm Arthur Cox in Dublin.

The presentation was made by the chairman of the hospital board, Tom Costello, chief executive Eilish Hardiman and senior HSE building officials on Monday.

The hospital will merge the three existing outdated and structurally inferior children's hospitals in Crumlin, Temple Street and Tallaght in Dublin, but the documents disclose that a number of milestones which are needed to plan and deliver the hospital have now been put back.

They include:

* A design team was due to be appointed for the new building in October of this year. This has been pushed back to March next year.

* Crucially, the board does not now expect to secure planning permission through a fast-track process from An Bord Pleanala until the spring of 2015 -- despite statements by the minister as recently as September that it could be obtained by the end of 2014.

* Permission will be sought in September 2014, and the hospital's developers are hopeful that it will get the green light within seven months -- a timeline some sources believe may be too ambitious.

* Medical services will be provided from the end of 2018, despite Mr Reilly saying in September that the hospital should be open for business in the spring of that year.

The hospital will be built on a 6.3 hectacre site but it has yet to be designed. Among the experts needed are architects, quantity surveyors, mechanical and electrical engineers, civil and structural engineers, fire and traffic consultants and planners.

They will submit their bids to build the hospital in January.

An Bord Pleanala is likely to be given details of the project over the coming months in advance of a formal application being made. A spokesman said while there had been no formal discussions about the project, the board had met with the hospital group this summer.

The board must decide if the hospital can be processed under the Strategic Infrastructure Act -- meaning it (An Bord Pleanala) will decide if permission should be granted, not the local authority. However, it needs a detailed design before it can judge if it qualifies for the fast-track planning process.

PLANNING

It is planned to have 469 beds, including 384 for in-patients and 85 for day care. This compares to 399 in-patient and 74 day-case beds across all the existing hospitals.

The lower number of in-patient beds will reflect modern care of young children, more of whom will not need to spend overnight in hospital.

All the rooms will be single and ensuite with a family area. Other features include advanced diagnostics and theatre facilities, play areas, gardens and courtyards, a therapy area, hydro pool and gym. There will be accommodation for parents adjacent to the hospital.

The design must acknowledge the family's well-being and their differing needs, as well as the importance of socialisation and privacy.

It has to have a "therapeutic environment" for children and young people helping them to "alleviate fear and anxiety" as well as maximise security and safety. It should also alleviate boredom, while creating an atmosphere of healing and recovery.

The hospital will be served by two satellite centres, one in the north and the other in the south side of the city, which are expected to be finished by mid-2016. The hospitals which will get these centres have yet to be revealed.

The project was originally due to be built on a site near the Mater Hospital in Dublin but this was rejected on planning grounds by An Bord Pleanala in February last year.

A protracted selection process resulted in the hospital being moved to the St James's Hospital campus in the capital.

Irish Independent

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