Someone Thinking Of The Children



This is Aisling McNiffe.

Yesterday she was part of a panel who were answering questions from the Oireachtas Health Committee at a hearing into the decision to locate the National Children’s Hospital at St James’s.

Gráinne Faller writes:

The clip is short and powerful. Please watch it.

Aisling’s son is in and out of hospital. The people advocating the St James’s site have consistently failed to address two incredibly important issues. 1) The maternity hospital which is essential to this hospital, and 2) access.

Let me be clear, the research shows that measures to speed up ambulance access do not work in built up areas. You don’t get more built up than that location. The access issue is about so much more than ambulances (traffic, helicopters etc), but I cannot imagine how slow every extra minute must seem when your child needs urgent treatment.

Can you honestly tell her and the many like her that their concerns are unfounded?

St James’s isn’t even accessible to Dubliners by car and make no mistake, car and taxi is how sick kids are brought to hospital. The research is unequivocal. Public transport is relevant to staff and maybe outpatients. It is important but it is not going to alleviate the problems.

There is a children’s hospital in Boston which has really encouraged public transport use which has worked well for staff and some outpatients. But even that hospital has over six car parking spaces per patient because that’s how sick kids get to them.

Guess how many spaces St James’s will have per patient? Two.

Guess how many they will add if and when the maternity hospital is built? Zero.

St James’s has a large range of clinical specialties. However these are adult specialties. Paediatric medicine is entirely different. There is very little crossover between adult and paediatric services. I wish we were wrong about this. I wish I could see a reason for choosing St James’s as a location for this facility. I can’t.

Previously: This Could Be A Catastrophic Mistake

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67 thoughts on “Someone Thinking Of The Children

  1. PeteS

    I am constantly astonished at this controversy. The government are completely intransigent despite the evidence that St James’ is just a terrible location for this hospital.

    1. Fact Checker

      I am constantly astonished at the airtime that these people get. They are neither doctors nor engineers but get endless airtime to make wishy-washy claims.

      Like this: “St James’s isn’t even accessible to Dubliners by car” which is complete nonsense. I have had used the James’s campus many, many times by car. Off peak, it is 30 minutes drive from half a million people.

      Also, given that the construction work is WELL started it is time to move on. There are much more important issues in the Irish health service that get a fraction of the attention that this gets.

      PS: The Mater was also a fine location, but four years were wasted as planners subjected us to their aesthetic whims about preserving the skyline of Dublin’s north inner city.

      1. EF

        Aisling was actually joined on this panel by 4 doctors including 2 paediatric consultants, a former patient and SJH NCHD and an orthopaedic surgeon who built the Blackrock clinic, the Galway clinic and the Hermitage, all adamant that James’s is (and indeed that the Mater was) the wrong site.

        Seeing as it is the most important piece of health infrastructure built in the history of the state I think that it is in fact quite important and deserves some scrutiny.

        Have you walked in the Rialto gate of SJH recently? Construction hasn’t started. Simon Harris was pictured in the paper with a shovel on the site a few months ago but in the hearing yesterday the NPH board conceded that any meaningful work to clear the site won’t begin until into next year

        1. Fact Checker

          My apologies, I clearly bought the state sponsored spin.

          On the main issue the people making the noise are medical professionals and patients’ advocates.

          Things like traffic flow are well outside their domain of expertise (mine too) although I am struck by the silence of the engineering profession on this issue.

      2. Propo

        Construction hasn’t started. Contracts haven’t even been signed. Work isn’t starting until well into next year. Hoarding is up and you saw a picture of Harris holding a shovel. That’s what you’re thinking of when you say it’s WELL started.

    2. broadbag

      + 3 on the reaction to that line – completely discredits the entire article when the ‘journalist’ makes utterly false assertions like this. As a Dubliner, I have been to James’ several times, in a car, no traffic issues, no problem finding a parking space – it’s a ridiculous statement to make.

      1. EF

        You’re perhaps not factoring in the 10,000 new person journeys per day that the children’s hospital will add.

        The new kids hospital will a far lower spaces-per-bed ratio than any other paediatric hospital built recently anywhere in the world at 2 spaces/bed. To give you an idea of others: Colorado, USA: 14 spaces/bed, Boston, USA: 8.8 spaces/bed, Melbourne, Australia: 6.4 spaces/bed, Toronto, Canada: 4.4 spaces/bed, Alder Hey Liverpool 4 spaces/bed.

        If a maternity hospital is ever built on the site, due to city council restrictions there will be no extra parking provision

        1. Fact Checker

          Do any of these campuses have their own light rail stop?

          MANY of these journeys will be bog-standard out-patient elective appointments with no urgency or lack of mobility involved.

          1. EF

            Outpatient appointments would be available at the urgent care centres which would be proposed for James’s. The most important group of people this hospital serves are the kids with complex diseases and cancer requiring tertiary level services where oftentimes mobility and urgency are issues and the vast majority of those come from outside the M50

  2. jackson

    Maybe the issue isn’t location but our refusal to build wider city roads. That hospital is 400 metres from the old N4 which was stupidly downgraded a couple of years to an R road instead of been widened and made free flowing, if these was reverted and given a proper upgrade. this would give you 5 drive from the M50 junction.
    an overhead junction with a some short tunnels at inchicore would be needed and thats it problem solved

    1. Mahoney

      “an overhead junction with a some short tunnels at inchicore”

      that’s 20 years work in this country

      1. jackson

        ‘we don’t need ____’ why what is it we know that other countries don’t?

        it doesn’t transect (?) the city. its a dual carriageway that exists there already and a junction there at kilmainham already, all they would need is an small upgrade which is no where near our 2 medieval streets

        1. ahjayzis

          The city is bisected by a dual carriageway using the river as the median.

          Nothing should be done to encourage more sociopaths to wander into town in their cars.

      1. Propo

        How do we upgrade the infrastructure? There’s no space. It’s entirely built up. That’s the problem.

  3. DubLoony

    Coombe Maternity Hospital is a few minutes away.
    There will be multiple entrances to the hospital so that the current funnelling of all traffic through 2 entrances will be changed.

    Parking & transport have been the big issues on the hospital from the outset. There were weeks of An Bord Pleanala public hearings about the location.

    As part of the plan there are 2 satellite children’s hospitals as well – Tallaght and Connolly. Crumlin will be there for a long time yet until new one is completed. If your child falls out of a tree & breaks am arm, you go to A&E in the satellite hospitals.
    If you have childhood cancer, need a heart transplant or have terminal illness, you go to National Children’s hospital where there will also be family rooms so parents can stay with their children as needed.

    Saying that there is no overlap with adult medicine is incorrect. St. James already are national centre of excellence for cancer treatment and is a teaching and research hospital. Its about pooling all of that knowledge and facilities for best medical outcomes.

    The location of a children’s hospital has been going on for 2 decades. In all that time, children’s medical needs have not been world class.

    1. EF

      The most dangerous part of a newborn’s transfer is into and out of an ambulance. The Coombe can be as close as it likes but as long as it isn’t in the same building outcomes will be worse.

      As per 2011 census 9/10 kids in this country live outside the M50. Therefore 9/10 children with ‘childhood cancer, need a heart transplant or have terminal illness’ ie tertiary needs are not being listened to here. It makes a hell of a lot more sense to put the National Children’s Hospital in Connolly to improve access for these patients and place an urgent care centre in SJH to take care of inner city kid’s broken arms/infections.

      1. Fact Checker

        That number is wrong. Total population inside M50 is north of 700k so more like 5/6 live outside.

        1. EF

          These are census figures of children, disproportionate amount of young professionals without kids and smaller families inside the M50

          1. Kieran NYC

            Hi EF

            Are you a medical professional? What’s your expertise?

            Please tell us how you’re qualified to advise on the location and medical competency of a national children’s hospital apart from holding the process up.

    2. Propo

      St James’s is not our national centre of excellence for childhood cancer. It is a national centre of excellence for ADULT cancer. Adult specialists not never, but very rarely, feed into paediatric care. That is a fact. The most important element of adult care as it relates to paediatrics is maternity care. At present there is NO planning permission for the maternity hospital on the St James’s site. It’s a bloody scandal.

  4. Joe Cool

    Powerful. But you know what? It will be ignored, some wishy washy excuse will be made. The same excuse we’ve heard a 1000 times before, why? I’ll tell you why. You just know somebody somewhere is benefitting from it being build in James. It makes zero sense what so ever, when things in this country make zero sense then you know someone’s on the make. Children will die because of this ludicrous, stupid and non sensical decision. They will die because someone wants to make a few quid, or garner favour from someone. That, is the only reason it is being built at St james’

          1. Kieran NYC

            Waiting around while Joe and his conspiracy-minded mates delay the building of a hospital to cure them, presumably.

          2. EF

            It’s well established that ambulance transfer increases mortality for newborn babies. Not locating the maternity hospital on site therefore will cause unnecessary deaths.

            There’s also the issue of being unable to land the coastguard helicopter there delaying access to urgent care for patients being transported to the SJH site.

            Head of the national ambulance service in 2012: ‘exemptions provided to ambulances do NOT increase speed in high-traffic areas. An important factor for the National Ambulance Service in relation to location is GOOD ACCESS TO A MAJOR THOROUGHFARE’ eg. M50

          3. Fact Checker

            But even if you put the Coombe on site the 90% of other children born every year in Ireland would not be born in a maternity hospital co-located with a children’s hospital.

            Or am I missing your point?

          4. SOQ

            @ Kieran back end of wherever.

            This has been decided as a transportation issue by cyclists it appears. That such a hospital must be centrally geo located is absolute nonsense.

          5. Fact Checker

            I have cycled to SJH on several occasions.

            Population of 200k in a 30-minute cycling radius allows that see.

          6. EF

            @Fact checker
            Not all but the vast majority of high risk newborns can be predicted prior to birth. So any women with potentially high risk babies would deliver in the maternity hospital down the corridor from the high level children’s ICU.

            And re people saying that the Coombe will be relocated to James’s, the maternity hospital was inexplicably left out of the planning application which would suggest to me that they expected it to be refused

    1. Elizabeth Mainwaring

      Gosh, you sound just like Seamus from the golf club before he disappeared on “stress” leave.

    2. Boy M5

      “when things in this country make zero sense then you know someone’s on the make”

      That’s usually the case alright but I don’t think it is here.

  5. Jake38

    The Connolly argument doesn’t stack up to any kind of scrutiny. The M50 is a carpark much of the day. Disastrous for access to Connolly.


    St James’ makes much more sense. On the Luas, just beside Heuston Station, multiple bus routes.

    Connolly is a barely developed district hospital which happens to be in a big field. James’s is the best developed speciality hospital in Ireland and, despite what the partisans for Connolly say, it has multiple national specialities which will be of great advantage to the Childrens hospital.

    And another big plus……… it is through the planning process.

    1. Propo

      Did you even watch the video? Listen to what the woman is saying. She can’t use public transport. The most seriously ill children travel to hospital by car. Public transport is important but less so than access by car. She has personal experience of this and her experience is echoed by parents of seriously ill children again and again. Parents and patients have been utterly ignored in this process. This hospital is for the most seriously ill children.
      St James’s is a specialist hospital for ADULTS. The crossover for children is minimal and does not justify the massive massive compromises. The maternity hospital is the thing we need and it’s the thing we may not get.

      1. Fact Checker

        This hospital is for ALL children including but not exclusively for the seriously ill ones.

        I am quite sure that prioritisation of parking spaces for those most in need is not beyond the capacity of SJH management in due course.

  6. Serv

    Just google map the journey to both. I get a difference of only 2 minutes from every county on the west coast. And that is in normal traffic.

    1. Fact Checker

      Yes but SJH has the added bonus of being more accessible to many who live INSIDE the M50, or a good one in six of the population of the country.

      1. ahjayzis

        I’m waiting for someone to suggest Athlone again because all that matters is geography and not where people live!

      2. Serv

        I agree. My point was it is as easy if not easier to get to James from anywhere in ireland. The chapelizod bypass is sox lanes including a permanent bus lane. And if there is an accident on the m50, you can take other routes.

  7. SOQ

    I really pity the residents at the back of James around SCR if this goes ahead. From the far side of Hybreasal right down to Rialto will be gridlocked and locals will be blocked in or have no where to park themselves. Crazy stuff.

    1. Boy M5

      Nah, it doesn’t happen now and it doesn’t happen around the Children’s hospital on the Crumlin Road. Most people who visit St. James’s do so by public transport and that includes people who park and ride the Red Line Luas.

    2. DubLoony

      There’s extra people parking around alright.
      Either people accept its a public road and ignore it, or go paid parking route.

      There are some older very narrow streets that have gone paid parking to stop the excesses.
      Others debating it the move.

    3. Clampers Outside!

      The traffic issues of residents that I’ve heard raised most (I’ve been to two meetings specifically for residents associations and attended a couple of open days too) are the concerns around the building of the facility…. long term has, from what I have heard at these meetings, been secondary, and does not raise near as much opposition as the traffic issues around the five years of construction (and up to 15 or 20 years for all phases to complete)….. that’s just my own experience. Others I’m sure will have another view…

  8. Clampers Outside!

    Can Grainne Faller give info on the parking in the other two hospitals, as in the James’ + the two satellite hospitals strategy? Appears to only compare parking within James’ ignoring the other two.

    Does the Boston hospital cover the serious long term treatments and the A&E facilities in the same place or is it split like the James’ + 2 Satellites proposal?

    I ask, because, comparing parking from a ‘one hospital solution’ to a ‘three hospital solution but looking at only one car park’ does not a proper comparison make… surely….

    That piece is ‘powerful’ with emotion. But that’s not what strategies should be based on. The Connolly option is not by any stretch some sort of magic place that will be perfect and has plenty wrong with it too.

    Any chance of a complete comparison…. I can’t find one… anyone?

    1. EF

      Blanchardstown shopping centre has permission for 7000 parking spaces which would give you an idea as to the scope there would be in Connolly. SJH site between the adult, paediatric and if a maternity hospital is ever built there, has a cap of 2000.

      The national paediatric hospital will have a full service ED and all the other tertiary services as does Boston. I don’t think a 4 fold difference in parking provision could be accounted for less by than 50% of ED attendances.

      Connolly is as close to we have to a perfect site for a national healthcare campus

  9. phil

    Have the Public sector unions had anything to say about this ? I wouldn’t be surprised if their feelings and the feelings of their members were front and center when making the decision about the location over and above the patients…

  10. Clampers Outside!

    ” Can you honestly tell her and the many like her that their concerns are unfounded? ”

    Based on the information available, and specifically in this piece, I can tell her that some people like Faller are most likely feeding her misinformation, and for that reason it is possible the concerns are unfounded.

    Misleading info (eg car parking of only one hospital given) is not a basis on which to found any concern.
    All concern should be based on complete information.

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