herald

Friday 9 December 2016

Rotunda plans for new wing on hold, says hospital chief

Dr Sam Coulter Smith
Dr Sam Coulter Smith

Plans to develop a new west wing at the Rotunda Hospital are "on ice", the Master of the hospital has revealed.

However, Dr Sam Coulter-Smith has warned that standing still is no longer an option for the busy hospital.

The extension plans - which would cost "tens of millions" - are on hold, as the Department of Health is currently reviewing the best locations for the Rotunda and the Coombe hospitals. The plan is to co-locate them with adult acute services.

Dr Coulter-Smith told the Herald that the hospital had been proceeding along the lines for the last couple of years that it is no longer big enough, and the facilities available from the Parnell Square site are no longer suitable for purpose.

"We really do need a facility that is bigger and more efficient and able to cope with the levels of activity that are currently coming through the system," he said.

Activity

"We need a significantly bigger labour ward, we need more operating theatres and we need more post-natal beds, in particular, in order to be able to deal with the activity levels in obstetrics," he added.

"Standing still is no longer an option. With that in mind, we have been proceeding along the lines that if urgent and immediate co-location wasn't going to happen then we needed to develop the west wing of the hospital. That is realistically the only area of the square that can be developed at the moment, because it links in with our current clinical buildings," Dr Coulter-Smith explained.

"So we put together a planning application and had discussions with Dublin City Council to see what they would allow us to do, what would fit with their plans for the square."

A three or four-storey development right along the west wing of Parnell Square was planned.

It was going to contain a new purpose-built outpatients unit on the ground floor, theatres, a gynaecology day care unit on the first floor, a labour ward extension on the second floor and additional post-natal beds.

"We reached a fork in the road. We had our plans drawn up to the extent that we were almost ready to go for planning permission and we thought, right before we actually go for planning permission, we better seek a meeting with the Minister so we can decide which route we are going to go here.

"So that is what we did and the Minister indicated that the maternity strategic review was going to happen very soon.

"He hoped to be in a position to be able to identify for us where we would co-locate ultimately, so that is where we are at the moment and we are waiting for that information," he said.

Dr Coulter-Smith said that following the conversation with the Minister, it was felt it would be unwise to commit to spending tens of millions on the plans, so they are on ice.

Outcome

Co-locating the Rotunda with Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown is seen as the most likely outcome of the review by the Department of Health.

However, Dr Coulter-Smith pointed out that it could take five to seven years before the hospital would be out at Connolly and that is "with a fair wind behind us.

"So if Connolly is where we are going to go - and we are waiting to have that confirmed - then we need to start developing services on the Connolly site," he said.

A spokesperson for Health Minister Leo Varadkar said that Holles Street is moving to the St Vincent's campus.

"The Department is currently reviewing the best locations for Dublin's other two maternity hospitals at the Rotunda and the Coombe," the spokesperson said.

"No decision has been taken about where either of these hospitals should be located.

"The review is expected to be completed in the near future and will be made on the basis of medical considerations."

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