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St James's site 'as bad as Mater' for new hospital


St James's Hospital. Photo: Collins

St James's Hospital. Photo: Collins

St James's Hospital. Photo: Collins

St James's Hospital is "as bad as the Mater if not worse" as a location for the new national children's hospital, founder of the LauraLynn hospice Jane McKenna has said.

The choice of the Mater was widely criticised as traffic congestion on surrounding roads would have made it difficult to get to.

But Ms McKenna said St James's poses similar problems in terms of accessibility.

Her comments echo those of Jonathan Irwin, chief executive of the Jack and Jill Foundation. He has called for the planned site to be moved to a greenfield location beside Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown.

Ms McKenna, speaking in a personal capacity, said everyone she knows who has a sick child believes St James's is a poor choice.

"It's as bad as the Mater if not worse. I don't mind being quoted on that. I would absolutely agree with Jonathan Irwin," she told the Herald.

Ms McKenna, who lives in Blanchardstown, thinks the greater amount of open space at the Dublin 15 location is an advantage.

"We need a new children's hospital but not where they're putting it. To put it where they're putting it is crazy. Access is a huge thing. Parking and all that, that's huge.

"But for anybody with a sick child, (it's also important) to be able to look out at green fields rather than up in the sky where there's nothing to look at," she said.

Both the Jack and Jill Foundation and LauraLynn offer care and support to sick and terminally ill children and their families.

Writing in the Sunday Independent, Mr Irwin said: "The St James's site is not the one. Our children deserve better. Much better...St James's is too congested. Too small."

He added: "I am 100pc certain that St James's will fail on planning grounds. But why wait until then before looking at other options?"

A comment from Health Minister Leo Varadkar's department had not been received at the time of writing.

Mr Irwin said last week that a philanthropic group had offered to fund the construction of the children's hospital, but only if it's located in Blanchardstown.

It was originally supposed to be built on the Mater campus but An Bord Pleanala rejected the plans.

People who support the St James's location say the decision was backed by Our Lady's Children's Hospital Crumlin.

"St James's offers the best opportunity for co-location with an adult hospital of the highest standard, a paramount consideration," Labour TD Michael Conaghan said in 2012.

"Clinical synergies at St James's will allow for every possible speciality to be made available to future generations."

"The city site is without doubt the most accessible and best-serviced public transport hospital in Ireland, with the Luas and Dublin Bus routes crossing the campus, Heuston Station on the doorstep and the M50," added the deputy, in whose constituency St James's is located.