Hospital Developer speaks out, 02/03/; read Responses 05/03/2012

Irish Times 2nd March 2012

Building national hospital for children in nine steps


OPINION: AS A concerned citizen, I have been appalled by the handling of the project for a new National Children’s Hospital. Having instigated, planned, developed, and commissioned three hospitals in the country in the past 30 years, ie Blackrock, Galway and Hermitage clinics, I have gained some experience in this area.

All three hospitals were built within 18 months and within budget. Because of my interest and expertise in hospital development, I was invited to join the board of Crumlin hospital in 2004 to help with the design and planning of a new facility in Crumlin.

After two years on the board and after much deliberation, I concluded that Ireland required one new paediatric hospital to serve the entire country, both North and South.

Not alone would this hospital serve the nation but it would be a wonderful expression of unity for our next generation by bringing both North and South together for paediatric care.A single hospital would be optimally utilised, serving a population of approximately five million by international standards.

I visited numerous children’s hospitals abroad to formulate my ideas.All co-located hospitals that I visited appeared to be a compromise and I concluded that the first essential was unlimited scope on a green-field site.

This permits the option to add a maternity hospital and indeed adult speciality areas to serve the needs of the maturing children for conditions such as cystic fibrosis, orthopaedic and cardiac disorders as indicated.

I discussed the situation with the then minister for health, Mary Harney; the then chairman of Crumlin hospital, Cardinal Connell and his successor, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin; and the board of Crumlin hospital.

I arranged conceptual plans for a new hospital on a greenfield site adjacent to the M50 as this hospital has to serve the nation, not just citizens of the inner city.

A proposal was submitted in March 2005 to all relevant parties, and I pledged that I would voluntarily undertake to develop the facility and have it fully commissioned by April 1st, 2008.

My proposal was never seriously considered and the political process took over with all the vested interests having a voice, leading to our current sorry state of turmoil and indecision.

The present design appears admirable but it is totally unsuitable on the Mater site. It could be a magnificent structure situated in a parkland setting with adequate space for adjacent and complementary developments.

It could be built and commissioned in a two-year period and, once again I offer my expertise on a voluntary basis to achieve this outcome. This offer of help is subject to no political interference, vested interest groups or committees.

Why can we not show the Irish nation that it can be done, and give some glimmer of hope to a battered country?

Over the three hospital projects in which I have been involved, I have realised that to achieve the end point, nine basic principles have to be adhered to uncompromisingly:

1 Freeze all plans prior to construction;

2 Specify all major equipment prior to commencing construction;

3 Minimise construction and commissioning to a maximum of two years and preferably one year;

4 Purchase all essential fixtures and fittings in advance and store them in an adjacent warehouse to obviate delays in construction;

5 Include all fixed fittings in the contract so that subsequent construction is eliminated;

6 Fix the construction contract price with a no-variation clause;

7 Prohibit any alterations that are deemed necessary until the contract is completed and the building handed over;

8 Hold weekly meetings of the design team with only the principals involved, so that instant decisions can be made as construction progresses;

9 Fix all design team fees at the onset.

In relation to the €36 million already spent on planning, where did this go?

Please can we have a breakdown as this seems unbelievable. Was most of it spent on ink cartridges?

Once again, I reiterate my commitment to undertake and deliver this hospital in a totally transparent and accountable fashion, provided I am allowed to do it largely on my own with a design team committed to the above mentioned principles.

My only other requirement is a pledge from Government that the money is available and not on the never-never, as normally happens, to prevent the project being drawn out for an indefinite period.

I would be privileged to deliver a new children’s hospital to the nation on time, and on budget.

My only vested interest is ensuring a centre of excellence for our children and grandchildren for the years to come.

James Sheehan, FRCSI, PhD, CEng. Hon, FIEI FIAE, is the developer behind the Blackrock, Galway and Hermitage clinics

3 thoughts on “Hospital Developer speaks out, 02/03/; read Responses 05/03/2012”

  1. Mr Sheehan – Well done! I fully support your proposal and have just now emailed RTE and Minister Reilly’s office. See text of emails copied below. If you need support towards getting your generous and sensible offer taken up by the power-that-be, please call on me.

    Copy of email to Minister Reilly:
    ” Please see JAMES SHEEHAN: OPINION on page 16 of Irish Times today March 2nd 2012. Can Minister Reilly please read James Sheehan’s comments and put James Sheehan into the driving seat – the job will simply get done – and get done pronto..

    I understand that the new CH committee appointed by the Minister to look at what to do next have their hands tied behind their backs – before they start – as the committee may not refer to anything other than the Mater site. Those terms of reference are simply wrong. Experts are supposed to give their expert opinions. Quarts do not fit into pints pots…etc..

    In any case, the proposed building looks absolutely ludicrous perched on top of the existing Mater. The design may be the height of fashion just now, but fashion is fickle and the building just simply does not fit on the site. In addition, getting to and from the Mater at present is a nightmare. A new Childrens’ Hospital on the site is a very bad idea – from the outset.

    Please, draw a line under all the nonsense to date, save time and money and give James Sheehan the reins.”

    Mary McGaver FRIAI

  2. Karl Marx said ‘What we learn from history is that we do not learn from history’ .
    IK Brunel designed and built a single storey prefabricated hospital on a greenfield site in Renioi in Turkey in under 12 months in 1854.
    That basic design has stood the test of time, and has allowed infinite adaptaion.
    Hospitals using this design were still being built 100 years later, these hospitals are still in use today such has been their ability to adapt and respond to medical advances.
    Please may our medical administrators see sense and build the new childrens hospital on a green field site that will be big enough to facilitate infinite adaptaion into the future.

  3. Mr Sheehan,
    Well said, it is very frustrating to see tax payers money wasted.
    Rather than waste any more money, perhaps if the people of Ireland were allowed to vote via text, on their opinion as to the best place for the new hospital. The government would have to accept that decision, and develop what is best for the future generations of Irish citizens.

    Ann Coyle

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