THE new national children's hospital faces yet another delay and is not expected to open until 2017 at the earliest -- five years later than the original plan.
The phased opening in 2017 is the most optimistic date and hinges on a planning application for a revised hospital being ready for submission by September.
A Government-appointed review group, chaired by former HSE chairman Frank Dolphin, is considering sites for the proposed €650m project, which has been dogged by delays. Health Minister James Reilly expects a recommendation from this group on his desk by the end of next month.
The development board overseeing the building of the hospital has indicated it would need three months from June to draft a planning application and submit this by September.
This follows the rejection by An Bord Pleanala of the original permission for the 16-storey hospital on the Mater Hospital site in Dublin on the grounds of height and scale of density. Even if the next application is submitted by September, it is likely to be next March before An Bord Pleanala decides whether to approve it. Assuming the project is agreed, it would take another six to nine months to draw up agreements with contractors.
The actual building would take a further three years and then the building would need to be equipped and made read for patients. A completion date of 2017 emerged yesterday as it was confirmed that the revised proposal to build the hospital on the Mater site has not yet been submitted to the State development board. Under this plan the Sisters of Mercy would donate part of the old Mater Hospital building for research and training and this in turn would allow the new planning application to reduce the height of the proposed new building in line with An Bord Pleanala recommendations.
The Mater has joined forces with the Rotunda and Temple Street hospitals in a campaign to rescue the national children's hospital plan for the Eccles Street site. The chairpersons of the three hospitals said they had "come together as a single entity to reinforce the case for proceeding with the national paediatric hospital on the Mater site".
Meanwhile the development board is due to meet An Bord Pleanala shortly and will make its case at the end of next week. There are around 16 other offers of sites being considered by the review group, but the odds are still in favour of the Mater campus, because so much work has already been done.