Children’s hospital ‘not exempt’ from improvement

The Government has rejected criticism that it was attempting to save costs by applying for exemptions to some of the fire safety conditions attached to the planning permission of the new €1 billion national children’s hospital.

Health Minister Simon Harris has said that the Department was not trying to cut corners on the project and outlined that An Bord Pleanála will have the final say on the fire requirements for the new hospital.

Speaking after it was revealed that that the hospital’s board had applied for some exemptions, including a hospital-wide sprinkler system, Harris said: “The National Children’s Hospital and the Paediatric Development Board have gone above and beyond in making sure that this world-class hospital will exceed fire safety standards.

“This is certainly not an issue of costs from the perspective of the Government. This is a project of nearly €1 billion in terms of investment by the taxpayer so that we can deliver a world-class hospital for children right across this country. So, the issue of costs will not arise whatever An Bord Pleanála decides exactly what to go with.”

An Bord Pleanála ordered The National Children’s Hospital, which has been given the name Phoenix Children’s Hospital, to install sprinklers across all floors of the hospital after the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board appealed against fire safety rules outlined by the Dublin Fire Brigade.

Agreed by the Government in 2006, the new single national tertiary paediatric hospital, which will replace the existing three Dublin children’s hospitals, had highlighted that there was only a requirement under the building code for sprinklers in the basement and in at-risk areas, however, in their exemption application outlined plans to include a system on the three upper floors.

The fire brigade, through Dublin City Council, had requested that the system be installed in all seven floors, the two basement levels and areas considered to be high risk, including canteens and kitchens.

Phoenix

The fresh criticism has emerged following complaints around the naming of the hospital, which is set to be ready by 2022. The Joint Medical Board, the medical boards of the three children’s hospitals, rejected the name Phoenix, aimed at symbolising regeneration, hope and renewal, as being “insensitive” to the families of children whose organs were retained and subsequently incinerated.

They also pointed out that the name clashed with an existing hospital in Arizona, America. Momentum is growing for a campaign to be named after a historic figure. In September, Health Minister Simon Harris confirmed that the hospital will be secular and so cannot be named after a saint.

Kathleen Lynn, a suffragette and doctor who co-founded Saint Ultan’s Children’s Hospital in 1919 and acted as chief medical officer for the Irish Citizen Army during the Easter Rising, has been suggested by the likes of Labour leader Brendan Howlin and Irish historian Diarmaid Ferriter, as well as by Sinn Féin. Others have suggested that the name should be more ‘child-friendly’.

The Phoenix Children’s Health (Children’s Hospital Group) has maintained that the name was selected fairly, following an “extensive and inclusive process”.

It wasn’t the only naming criticism. Obesity experts hit out at the sponsorship name offered to the 53-room parents’ wing of the new hospital. The wing is to be called the Ronald McDonald House, a charity wing of McDonalds. Highlighting the prominence the name is given on a virtual tour of the planned hospital, Dr Donal O’Shea, HSE lead for the management of obesity, said: “Would you have Heineken sponsor your liver units?”

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