The Cabinet has approved the construction of the new National Children’s Hospital at the St James’s Hospital site in Dublin.
Speaking at the site of the hospital, Minister for Health Simon Harris said: “Our children have waited a long time for this new hospital but there is light at the end of the tunnel now.”
He said: “Site clearance work, which began last year, is almost complete and so we’ll start building works in the next few weeks.”
The hospital will have 380 individual en-suite in-patient bedroom, 22 operating theatres, and 1,000 car parking spaces.
The construction cost for the new National Children’s Hospital at St James’s Hospital, plus two satellite centres at Tallaght and Connolly Hospitals, will be around €600m.
However, other commissioning costs, such as information and communications technology will add considerably to the final cost bringing it closer to €1bn.After more than a decade of wrangling over its location, the new National Children’s Hospital got planning permission last year on the St James’s site.
However, some campaigners have said other sites are more suitable and today said they are considering taking legal action to try prevent the project going ahead.
After Cabinet gave its final approval for the construction today, the contract will be awarded to the selected builder.
It will take four years to build and a further six months to commission, with a planned opening at the end of 2021.
There will be 675 car parking spaces for parents, including 100 designated for long-term care patients.
There are 325 spaces allocated for staff.
Two satellite centres in Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown and in Tallaght Hospital, where children with minor illnesses will be treated, will open from the end of 2018.
The cost of the project has generated controversy as the final cost has risen from an original estimate but the Government has argued that the original estimate did not cover all the costs involved.
The separate operational costs of the new hospital have not been outlined.
The project director of the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board, John Pollock, said it was an exciting day and he expected to deliver a world class hospital in four years.
Mr. Harris said it will be the largest investment ever made in the health and welfare of our children.
“It’s extraordinarily exciting and will have huge economic benefits with about 1,700 construction jobs,” he said this morning.
Arriving for today’s Cabinet meeting, Minister for State Finian McGrath expressed some concern about the cost of the project.
“I accept that the prices have increased dramatically over the years – some of that is health inflation but we have to be more efficient,” he said.
This afternoon, the chairperson of the parents’ lobby group the Crumlin Children’s Hospital Group said despite all the delays in relation to the National Children’s Hospital, it is “a great day” and the biggest issue now is “to make sure this project goes ahead on time”.
Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One, Louis Roden said “a projecct of this scale is bound to have hiccups” but everyone needs to get behind it to get this hospital open.
Mr Roden, who has campaigned for a new national children’s hospital for 15 years, described it as “a fantastic day”.
But he said “tragically the children who have died and who have been treated in substandard facilities over the years won’t benefit from it”.
Separately, the project director of the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board has welcomed the approval of construction of the new National Children’s Hospital.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Drivetime, John Pollock, said in four year’s time, Ireland will have one of the best children’s hospitals in the world.