Children's hospital analysis 'incomplete and superficial'

St James's and Crumlin hospitals both criticised the task group report on the new children's hospital in letters to Mary Harney. Frank Connolly reports

The government task group report on the new children's hospital is "an incomplete and superficial analysis" and is "extremely short on detail and transparency", according to Frank Feely, former Dublin city manager and currently vice-chairman of the board of Crumlin Children's Hospital. He stated this in a letter handed to Mary Harney, early on 8 June, hours before the cabinet decided to approve the recommendation of a task group to locate the new children's hospital on the Mater Hospital site. The boards of Crumlin and St James's believe that the 24.3 hectare site at St James's Hospital is a better location for the National Paediatric Hospital.

The letter went on to say the following:

• The 6.15 hectare Mater site was not suitable to meet the criteria for expansion and co-location with an adult hospital.

• The (preferred) site should have sufficient space for expansion in the future in the light of changing demographics and new technologies, and such space was not available at the Mater.

• The speed of project delivery should not be the sole differentiating factor in chosing the hospital site.

• Inadequate consideration was given to the recruitment and retention of skilled and specialised staff of which there are 1,500 in Crumlin.

• The task group report failed to address issues such the provision of adequate family accommodation on site, accommodation for the National Medical Genetics Centre and on-site Academic and Research facilities.

• The Mater site lacked necessary car parking space, there was inadequate public transport to the Mater and inadequate road access.

The letter, written on behalf of the Crumlin Hospital board requested an international peer review of the decision.

The task group comprised of HSE and department officials was asked to assess which hospital site would best fit the criteria set out in an earlier report prepared by McKinsey consultants. It concluded that only two sites – the Mater and St James's – best met the McKinsey criteria. The task group then concluded that the Mater was the preferred option as it could deliver the project more speedily than the St James's site.

In a letter sent by Thomas N Mitchell, the chairman of the Board of St James's Hospital, to Mary Harney, similar criticisms were expressed. It said the task group had failed to research properly the comparative advantages of the two hospitals because it did not have the detailed evidence necessary. It noted that the task group was driven by urgency to make a decision and "put speed before due diligence". It said the task force had settled on a hypothesis that the hospital could be built at the Mater site more quickly and was better situated to develop cross site co-operation with other tertiary hospitals. "These assumptions were unsupported by any detailed investigation," Mitchell wrote.

Both hospital boards criticised the absence of an experienced hospital manager on the task group.

A spokesman for the Minister for Health said that Ms Harney had brought the concerns raised by other childrens hospitals to the attention of her cabinet colleagues during their discussion on 8 June.