Review Group to consider the decision of An Bord Pleanála to refuse planning permission for the National Paediatric Hospital

06 March 2012

The Minister for Health has decided to establish an independent group to consider the implications of the decision of An Bord Pleanala (ref 29N.PA0024) received on 23 February 2012 to reject the planning application for the proposed construction of a national paediatric hospital on the site of the Mater Misericordiae Hospital.

Today the Cabinet agreed to the following Terms of Reference for the Review Group, which is to be chaired by Dr Frank Dolphin.

The Minister and the Government have re-affirmed their commitment to the construction of a national children’s hospital as a Government priority.

The terms of reference of the group are as follows:

To inform itself about the planning considerations and processes affecting this project.

To consider the different options which now exist for progressing the construction of a national children’s hospital having regard to –

To advise him, in the light of these considerations, on the appropriate next steps to take with a view to ensuring that a national paediatric hospital can be constructed with minimal delay.

To report to the Minister within 56 days of the first meeting of the group.

Below are excerpts from an interview given by Minister Reilly following the cabinet decision today:

Q: Gist of decision

"Basically it was to determine the Terms of Reference to give this group which will be chaired by Dr Frank Dolphin.... and to look at options as to where to go next and what’s the most expeditious way to go to get this hospital built because that’s the primary concern of the government is that this hospital be built as quickly as possible so that our children get the best of care in the best of environments.

Q:Not wed to the Mater site. Can this group look at other options – other hospitals or even a Greenfield site?

Absolutely. Everything is on the table and we’re asking them to give us their best advice on what’s the best way forward. And we’re very cognisant of the fact that this is a hospital that will serve us for at least a hundred years or more and that whilst we want to build it as quickly as possible we don’t want to rush it.

Q: Conditions in Crumlin hospital – there’s a great need for speed. If you go to a Greenfield site how can you guarantee that it will be done within the Government’s term of office as the Taoiseach promised?

Well it’ll prove challenging there’s no question about that. But at least it would have certain advantages……………. you would be able to build 24 hours a day if you were away from a built up area which we would presume, if you were a Greenfield site, it would be. And they would be considerable advantages in terms of expediting the construction once we got through the tendering and the planning process.

Q: You sound like you’re leaning towards a Greenfield site.

I’ve been accused of leaning towards the Mater, favouring the Mater and now “I’m leaning towards a Greenfield site”. I’ve made it clear from the very outset that my most important objective is to build the hospital as quickly as possible. I mean there’s advantages and disadvantages and I think this expert group need to have a good long hard look at that. I don’t think it would be right for me to pre-judge anything they’re going to come out with. We want not to have to be spending money elsewhere to maintain service when what’s required is a brand new building. And I believe that co-location with an adult site is important. I believe further, tri-location with a maternity hospital is important and I believe the research and training element of this is very important too.

We’ve a wonderful opportunity here to do something that will serve our country and children of the country well for the next hundred years and let’s do it right. But let’s do it quickly.

Q: Is co-location still government policy or it that up in the air really ?

No. I think this is a key point myself and the expert group that I employed before this made that very clear, that co-location was a particular concern. Others may have a different view buy my view is very simple…..(the experts of the world) have nailed their colours to the mast on this in relation to it being co-located.

For the super specialised areas of certain procedures we wouldn’t have the volume in our child population to be able to retain a full time expert in that area. But when you combine their care with the care of ………. you could justify having several other specialities that we don’t currently have now which are really super specialists.

Finally the Minister confirmed that Dr Frank Dolphin is to chair the Review Group. The line up of the group will be announced later.