Sunday 21 January 2018

St James's to get Cabinet nod in children's hospital tussle

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

THE Government will definitely pick St James's Hospital in Dublin city as the location for the new children's hospital next week.

But Health Minister James Reilly will not formally reveal his recommendation to ministers until he goes into a Cabinet meeting.

The only question to be resolved is the level of involvement of a 20-acre site at the back of the Coombe Maternity Hospital. A research facility led by Trinity College is being mooted for this.

Backers of the bids at St James's and Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown are still engaged in frantic last-minute lobbying of ministers.

Despite some slight concerns about the debate on the hospital impacting on the children's referendum campaign, ministers will make a decision.

Dr Reilly won't be flagging his recommendation to cabinet ministers in advance.

Ministers have yet to receive a copy of the expert report into the locations that was prepared by the Dolphin Group.

Government sources say the Cabinet won't go against the recommendation before it.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore and Dr Reilly met a week ago to discuss the decision.

Maternity

"Once the Taoiseach, the Tanaiste and the Minister for Health are on board, there won't be any change at Cabinet," a source said.

The Coombe is already involved in the James's bid, as it will serve as the maternity hospital, linked to the adult and children's hospital.

"The only question to be resolved is whether it's James's and the Coombe or not. It doesn't really matter what they call it. It's James's," a source said.

The Government is believed to have been reassured about the planning concerns associated with St James's by the endorsement of Dublin City Council and an additional review of the sites.

Trinity's medical school is already linked to St James's Hospital, as it serves as its training hospital. But there is now speculation of the development of a medical research campus, headed up by Trinity, using a combination of private and public funding.

The unpublished report of the expert group, chaired by businessman Frank Dolphin, said there were advantages in the amount of space offered by the Coombe Hospital bid, which has 20 acres of land near the Luas Red line.

The south inner-city hospital, near to St James's, has some free land and sites to be purchased from the National Asset Management Agency, including the former John Player cigarettes factory.

Irish Independent

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