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Saturday 10 December 2016

Leo Varadkar 'not complacent' on success of plan for new hospital

With a model of the new hospital were (from left to right) Health Minister Leo Varadkar; Aoife Dillon, Temple Street Children’s Hospital; Caoimhe Wade, Children’s Heart Centre; Amanda
McCormack, National Children’s Hospital Tallaght; and Darragh Barry (12) from the National Youth Advisory Committee
With a model of the new hospital were (from left to right) Health Minister Leo Varadkar; Aoife Dillon, Temple Street Children’s Hospital; Caoimhe Wade, Children’s Heart Centre; Amanda McCormack, National Children’s Hospital Tallaght; and Darragh Barry (12) from the National Youth Advisory Committee

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar is confident that the new National Children's Hospital will get planning permission.

But he said he was "not complacent" about the application for the €650m project set for St James's Hospital.

The application for the long-delayed hospital has been lodged with An Bord Pleanala.

Some €16m has been spent getting the new design to the planning application stage.

If it fails to pass muster with planners then that money will be lost, Mr Varadkar admitted. He added that no work had begun on an alternative plan.

READ MORE: Charity boss Jonathan Irwin: I'll spend €100k to fight St James's scheme

First announced a decade ago, the hospital has been beset by a series of delays.

Amalgamate

The most devastating blow to the bid to amalgamate Ireland's three children's hospitals on one campus was when a planning application for the Mater hospital site was rejected in 2012.

Mr Varadkar said that lessons had been learned from that process.

"It's a much bigger site - it's nearly three times the size of the Mater site. It doesn't go any higher than seven stories," he said.

READ MORE: Guinness brewing process may help to heat €650m children's hospital

If the plan is rejected this time a similar delay could cost between €60m and €70m a year he said. Plans to locate the hospital on the Dublin 8 site have faced strident opposition from some quarters, including from campaigners who believe the hospital should be built on a greenfield site in Blanchardstown.

"There are always going to be people who are going to be critical of this project.

"It's the biggest investment in health infrastructure in the State," he said.

"But we've had all these debates before. We've been having debates about the Children's Hospital since I was a medical student. So after decades of debate and controversy around this we are on the verge now. Just one more step, one more hurdle to get over and we can finally get things under way."

He urged people to support the planning permission in order to allow construction to begin in six months.

Also on board with the new plans was 12-year-old Darragh Barry, who has been a patient of both Beaumont Hospital and Our Lady of Lourdes Children's Hospital Crumlin.

Darragh is a member of the National Youth Advisory Committee, which advised the Children's Hospital board.

Scared

"The hospital is going to do a lot of things for children. It'll make the children felt at home and not feel scared - and I hope it's going to serve better food ... a lot better food," he said.

"We asked for wifi, better food, a fun colourful space, more space and for parents not to be sleeping on floors."

The Laois-based youngster has battled two tumours, one on his spine and one on his chest and still visits both hospitals every few months.

Olympian Bernard Dunne and band The Script were among the celebrities who threw their weight behind the planning application yesterday.

"Hopefully just the first step on the road to reduced waiting time and better care for our sick children," Dunne wrote online.

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