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Assessment of new Children’s Hospital plan 'could take up to three months'

A final completion date for the new Children’s Hospital has not yet been agreed, with the hospital board saying it could take “up to three months” to assess a revised plan from the contractors.

The Department of Health has said the contractors, Bam, submitted a detailed revised plan on July 18. This is now being assessed by an independent body. 

“The programme includes over 40,0000 separate activities to bring the project to substantial completion,” said a spokesman.

“Given this level of detail, which is welcome, the NPHDB [National Paediatric Hospital Development Board] has advised that the review and determination of compliance could take up to three months to complete.” 

He said the programme gives details on how Bam “proposes to complete the final approximately 10% of this hospital and achieve certainty on a substantial completion date.” 

Construction and equipping is “over 90% complete against contract value”, he said.

Spina bifida concerns

The continued uncertainty comes against a backdrop of serious safety concerns around some spinal surgery for children with spina bifida at Temple St, part of the Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) hospital group.

Advocates for children with spina bifida and scoliosis said they do not wish to meet with Health Minister Stephen Donnelly on this, despite his offers. 

They said they contacted him many times during 2022 about delays and funding, and it is unclear what a 30-minute meeting, as offered, could achieve.

Emails between the advocates and the minister’s senior staff show a special advisor accepted an invitation to a Zoom meeting in early March during which concerns around delays and allocation of funding for spina bifida were discussed.

Other emails with CHI were also copied for information to the minister’s official Oireachtas email and to the same senior staff member.

A spokesperson for Mr Donnelly said: "The minister’s office and a staff member were copied on correspondence between CHI and advocacy groups during 2022 which sought to address operational matters and various concerns around the development and improvement of the scoliosis service, particularly for spina bifida patients.

"The minister shared many of those concerns and made his views clear to CHI for the need for progress and better communications with parents and advocacy groups.

At no stage in this engagement were patient safety issues raised."

On May 30, 2022, the Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus Paediatric Advocacy Group (SBPAG) wrote to CHI highlighting delays with accessing annual spina bifida check-ups.

“As you are well aware, some children are waiting many years for their 'annual' appointment,” the email states, adding it can then take up to six months for letters to follow with details of required supports.

In CHI’s responses, it addresses recruitment, the opening of a new theatre for Temple St, and other proposed reforms.

However, following revelations about the use of unauthorised springs in surgeries, advocates are looking for swifter action.

Amanda Coughlan-Santry, who is working with the Scoliosis Advocacy Network, is seeking answers for parents. She said they are concerned a proposed HSE-commissioned external review of the situation will not find answers.