Mater is wrong site for National Children’s Hospital

Site for new children’s hospital

Madam, – A modern children’s hospital needs a large 40-60 bed
intensive care unit, a highly efficient day care unit which might turn over patients two or even three times a day and a nearby basic hotel. Oncology and cystic fibrosis need separate units because of infection issues. All Dublin surveys omit the vital factor of a basic hotel, “Holiday Inn” standard, on site. This is an essential part of planning a children’s
hospital if bed stay is to be shortened and costs contained. Many of the biggest American children’s hospitals are designed with this in mind. The nearest hotel to the Mater is the Gresham Hotel in O’Connell Street, which is a mile away.

Many people outside the paediatric field feel that there is strong
case for co-location with an adult hospital. It seems logical, but it
doesn’t work like that. As has been shown again and again the co-location has no tangible advantages for a large paediatric hospital. Those of us who trained in, worked in and visited standalone units all over the world will testify to that. There is, however, a strong case for crossover collaboration in research. But there is no plan for transferring the Children’s Research Centre at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, (founded 1965) which has been so highly successful and is now a minor part of the national fabric, to the Mater site. There is certainly no room for it there.

The Mater site is relatively near Heuston Station, according to a
letter-writer who should know better (August 2nd). The station is actually nearer Crumlin and the cross-city journey to the Mater takes perhaps three times or more as long. Public transport is almost irrelevant to children’s hospital access in this second decade of the 21st century. Perhaps 90 per cent patients, especially from outside Dublin, access by car. Published data from the Mater (Irish Times Mater supplement of a few years back) about cycling times from the various mainline stations is about as relevant as rickshaw, sedan chair or gondola times and show a sad lack of insight into the real issues. About 70 per cent of children’s hospital admission are under four years of age. Tricycle times?.

As for building on the six-hectare (15-acre) Crumlin site, the Boston
Children’s (arguably the worlds number one) was built on the site of the
old hospital’s car park, (I was twice visiting professor there) while the
hospital continued working. The builders of Our Lady’s, Crumlin say that
they could put up a building with all the modern requirements on that site without disturbing the work of the existing hospital. It would cost
something over €100 million . . . a saving of €600 million. However, it
looks as though the political Faustian pact will prevail. – Yours, etc,


Retired Professor of Paediatric

Surgery RCSI,

Merlyn Road, Ballsbridge,