Government wants new children’s hospital to be open next year

Construction has begun on facility to accommodate families of patients at the new hospital

The Government wants children to be treated in the new €2.2 billion national children’s hospital next year, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said.

The Minister said the contractor said the hospital would be ready to be handed over to the State in the final quarter of this year and he fully expected that deadline to be met.

Mr Donnelly said once handed over to the State-appointed development board, Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) would need six months to commission the facility. He said he and the Government wanted to see children being treated in the hospital next year.

The Minister said there was a “live discussion” under way between the development board and main contractor as to the final cost of the project as well as on the time for the building to be handed over.

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He said the contractor had submitted claims for hundreds of millions of euro and the board was challenging those claims. A very small percentage of these had been agreed upon through a mediation process, he added.

“We can all see the difference this hospital is going to make for children,” the Fianna Fáil TD said. “This is transformative for healthcare for children in Ireland.”

Mr Donnelly on Thursday turned the sod on the Ronald McDonald House, which has capacity to provide accommodation for up to 52 families of children being treated at the new hospital. This represents an increase of 160 per cent on the current facility at the existing paediatric hospital in Crumlin.

As well as bedrooms, the Ronald McDonald House will have a communal kitchen and shared common areas such as livingrooms, playrooms, reading rooms, a laundry and outdoor spaces.

Mr Donnelly said the start of construction on the facility marked “another positive milestone in the delivery of the new children’s hospital project”.

HSE chief executive Bernard Gloster said: “The proximity of this new family accommodation unit, together with the basement level corridor connected to the new children’s hospital, will mean that families have direct access to their children whenever they are spending time in the new children’s hospital.”

Marian Carroll, chairwoman of Ronald McDonald House, a charitable arm of the fast food chain McDonald’s, said its facility at Crumlin had “provided accommodation, care and support for over 5,000 families from across the island of Ireland”.

Anti-obesity expert Dr Donal O’Shea previously questioned if it was appropriate to have a charity linked to a fast food company involved in a children’s hospital project. He said it was not the right message to be sending out when childhood obesity was a serious problem. “Would you have Heineken sponsor your liver units?” he asked.

However, parents of sick children say they have benefited from having access to accommodation at Crumlin, including Rose Marie O’Loughlin, mother of a seven-year-old boy treated at the hospital.

“Darragh was born in Wexford General Hospital and after only 24 hours it was clear he needed additional care and was transferred by ambulance to CHI Crumlin,” she said. “At two days old he had his first investigative cath lab procedure and was scheduled for open heart surgery. We were far from home, terrified and had not planned for this. We got a room in the Ronald McDonald House, and it is difficult to put into words what a difference this made to us.”

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