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Saturday 23 June 2018

Overseas investors want to fund children's hospital on Coombe site

Dearbhail McDonald and Paul Melia

HEALTH Minister Dr James Reilly is considering an alternative proposal for the site of the new children's hospital.

The alternative hospital, which may be funded by governments in the Middle and Far East, will be located on lands surrounding the existing site of the Coombe Maternity in Dublin.

The Coombe says that it can house the new National Paediatric Hospital (NPH) -- which would also include an adult and a maternity hospital -- over seven storeys, rather than the 16-storey proposal at the Mater that was recently turned down by An Bord Pleanala.

The plans were given to Dr Reilly yesterday and it is expected that the new proposal will be discussed when the Cabinet meets on Tuesday to discuss the terms of reference of a new group set up to examine why the Mater site failed to pass the planners.

According to the Coombe, the proposal for its new hospital fulfils all of the criteria established by the McKinsey Report and the Department of Health/HSE National Paediatric Hospital taskforce.

The Irish Independent has learned that two sovereign wealth funds -- government-owned and controlled investment vehicles -- are prepared "in principle" to invest €500m to build the National Paediatric Hospital (NPH) on a 20.5 acre south inner-city site beside the Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital (CWIUH).

The new hospital would be leased to the Government for 25 years by the overseas funds and the State could then opt to buy the hospital after the 25-year lease ends.

Details of the proposed leasing arrangements were not known.

But in correspondence seen by the Irish Independent, one of the overseas investors says that it is prepared in principle to finance the entire project if the Coombe site were to become the Irish Government's "preferred location".

Some €35m has already been spent on the design of the Mater site, but the Coombe says that it can build the new NPH next to its current site within 42 months.

Priority

The new hospital, incorporating the NPH, would be built on the existing John Player and Bailey Gibson sites straddling Dublin's South Circular Road and Cork Street, where the Coombe is currently located.

The promoters said that the south inner-city site is -- according to the Dublin City Development Plan 2011-2017 -- a strategic development zone; and this is a zone that facilitates projects with economic and social importance.

The lands also form part of the Dolphins Barn Framework Development Plan and already have a mixed-use integrated planning permission from An Bord Pleanala.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Dr Reilly have both stressed that a new children's hospital remains an absolute priority, and that the project will be built within the lifetime of the Government.

The proposed new Coombe Hospital is close to the Red Luas line and St James's Hospital and will have car parking for up to 1,000 cars.

Last night St James's said that it was not involved in the Coombe proposal.

A spokesman said it had told Health Minister James Reilly that it was available "to assist in any way" in the development of a new children's hospital.

Funding for the Coombe proposal is being handled by former AIB banker Seamus Doherty's Coleman Capital.

Mr Doherty is the former general manager of AIB in the Asia Pacific region and has been liaising with the Middle and Far Eastern wealth funds on behalf of the Coombe.

Irish Independent

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