Crumlin report expected to oppose Mater site

Minister for Health Mary Harney is to meet with representatives of Crumlin hospital to discuss a report into the proposed site for a new national paediatric hospital at the Mater in Dublin. The report is expected to raise serious questions about the suitability of the site. By Frank Connolly

A report commissioned by the board of Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin is expected to oppose the location of the new national paediatric hospital on the site of the Mater in Dublin city centre.

The latest report, currently due for completion, will be discussed at a meeting with Minister for Health Mary Harney next week according to Frank Feely, vice-chairman of the Crumlin hospital board.

The report is likely to further fuel the row over the choice of the Mater campus to house the new national children's hospital, which will incorporate the three existing paediatric facilities at Temple Street, Crumlin and Tallaght.

Despite its city-centre location and limited size, the Mater was agreed upon by the cabinet following a recommendation by a joint Department of Health/HSE task force earlier this summer.

The choice was greeted by severe and outspoken criticism from the boards of Crumlin and St James' hospitals, who wrote to the minister expressing their concern and calling for an independent peer review of the decision.

When this demand was not met, the board of Crumlin hospital initiated its own review, involving internal discussions with its child specialists and consultation with a medical expert from Canada and an English-based architect, Tony O'Donoghue.

Village has learned that the report is expected to raise questions about access to the proposed facility at the heavily congested, city-centre Mater site, given that 60 per cent of Crumlin patients come from outside Dublin and travel by car.

It will also question why the site of just six acres was chosen in preference to St James', which is four times larger and seems to more closely meet the recommendations of an indpendent report by McKinsey consultants, which argued that the new paediatric hospital should be located on a site close to an adult hospital but with sufficient size to accommodate research and other facilities.

"The results of these discussions will be brought to the board of the hospital on Monday and we will be meeting with the minister in the following days," Feely told Village.

Senior medical sources at Crumlin told Village they would not agree to transfer to the Mater if the latest report disagreed with the controversial choice of the city-centre location. "If the report says it is not in the best interests of children and families, we will not move," the senior consultant said.

A bitter war of words recently broke out between the chief executive of the HSE, Professor Brendan Drumm, and the chairman of the board of the Mater hospital, Des Lamont. This followed comments by Lamont at a function at the Mater attended by the Taoiseach on 1 September when he praised Ahern for honouring a commitment he made last year that a new children's hopsital would be built on the city-centre campus.

He also promised that the new children's hospital would be completed by September 2011.

Drumm, in a letter revealed to the media, said the claim that the Taoiseach influenced the choice of location for the hospital was a "direct affront to the integrity of the members of the HSE/Department of Health task force".

He said the completion date would be decided by the independent governing body established by the HSE and the department to oversee the design and construction of the new hospital.

The Taoiseach once worked in administration in the Mater, which is located in the heart of his Dublin Central consitutency.