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€60m private hospital plan

PLANS have been unveiled for a new 140-bed private hospital on the outskirts of Ennis, with a construction price tag in the region of €60 million. A planning application has been lodged with Clare County Council to provide the first state-of-the art private health care facility of its kind in the county at Shanaway Road in Ennis.

If planning permission is granted, developers John Stack, Lisdoonvarna and Pat Bonner, Donegal, say it will create over 100 construction jobs with between 400 and 500 full-time jobs directly generated once the hospital becomes fully operational in 2012.
The proposed development includes 120 in-patient beds and a further 20 outpatient and daycare beds. It will provide a full range of medical and healthcare services including general surgery, urgent care, cardiology, radiation, oncology, cosmetic surgery, four operating theatres and endoscopy.
Other services will include physiotherapy, laboratory, x-ray, radiology, MRI/PET scans, ECG, mammogram, renal dialysis, ultrasound, pharmacy and dental facilities.
The building will include basement level parking for 212 cars, ten disabled parking bays, new access from Shanaway Road and an energy centre with a connecting service tunnel from the hospital basement.
Pre-planning meetings have been held between the developers and a number of Clare County Council’s senior planners and engineers.
The Clare Champion has learned that a number of prospective operators have expressed an interest in becoming involved in the running of the hospital.
The provision of a new private hospital will be viewed as a body blow by local campaigners who have been calling for a return of 24-hour accident and emergency services that were removed from the Mid-Western Regional Hospital, Ennis last April.
A year ago, Ennis hospital had 88 in-patient and six day care beds. However, under the controversial reconfiguration of acute hospital services in the Mid-West, this has been reduced to 55 in-patient and 13 day case beds.
Once a fire certificate is obtained, Ennis hospital will be going out to tender for the provision of a new €1.3 million endoscopy suite and day surgical ward with an extra 14 beds.
Day surgery is also provided in the 129-bed Cahercalla Community Hospital and Hospice, which includes 103  nursing home beds, ten hospice beds, seven step down hospice beds and nine day beds in the surgical unit.
Developer John Stack, who has been in the construction business for 35 years, said the demand is there for a new private hospital in Clare, considering local people had to travel to Limerick and Galway for a variety of health services.
If planning permission is granted, he predicted it would take between two and two and a half years to build the new hospital.
“The provision of a new private hospital would provide a huge boost to the area. It would provide a very valuable healthcare asset that would reinforce Ennis’ role as a major centre for general and specialist healthcare services. It would also provide significant new employment opportunities across a range of health sectors.”
Donegal-based property developer, Pat Bonner, who purchased the site about three years ago, revealed they saw a gap in the market following discussions with people involved in the hospital business following the withdrawal of services from Ennis hospital. They decided to invest in a private hospital following the slump in demand for new housing developments.
Having worked on a number of property deals with Mr Stack in the past, Mr Bonner said he was delighted to get involved in this new venture, which would provide a major economic spin-off for the local community.
The application site for the new hospital, which extends to about 4.2 acres, is located on Shanaway Road about half way between Woodstock Hotel and golf course and the junction of N85 Ennis to Ennistymon Road. It is also close to the junction of the recently constructed Western Relief Road.
Development in the general vicinity of the site includes a number of recently constructed large residential developments.
According to planning documents submitted with the application, planning permission already exists for the construction of 131 houses, local shop, crèche, sewage pump station and associated site services on lands immediately opposite the subject site, south of Shanaway Road.
The documents outline that surface water will be collected from the development site and piped to lands owned by Martin Casey, with his consent, before discharge into the Claureen River. The route of connection to the public sewer will also traverse the Casey lands and the pumping station is also located on his land.
“The hospital proposal, is therefore, entirely standalone and does not rely on any residential development on the Casey lands. Nevertheless, while each proposed development is independent, it is envisaged that both will proceed as complementary developments,” the documents stated.
A traffic and transport impact assessment and associated Stage One Road Safety Audit are being prepared for the proposed development and will be ready for submission to the council by mid-January 2010.
The study area will include the proposed access junction at Shanaway Road with an appropriate junction type and adequate sightlines and the junction between Shanaway Road and the N85 Lahinch Road.
It will include estimates of the traffic movements that will be generated by the proposed hospital and an assessment of the impact of the additional traffic on the surrounding network. This will be done for the opening year, for subsequent periods of five and 15 years after the opening.
Welcoming the development, Clare Fine Gael TD, Pat Breen said the new hospital would provide a timely jobs boost for the county in the midst of the recession.
Deputy Breen pointed out the developers had spotted a gap in the healthcare market locally following the downgrading of Ennis hospital.
He hoped the new hospital would be available for all patients and not just private insurance holders. Under a radical Fine Gael healthcare plan, he said that the provision of universal healthcare insurance would ensure that people could use public and private hospitals, regardless of their means.
He claimed that the Government had undermined public hospitals such as Ennis hospital through a lack of proper investment, which had created a niche for a new private hospital in Ennis.
Expressing concern that the new facility could adversely affect Ennis hospital, he urged the Health Service Executive to put in the necessary investment to upgrade the acute facility.
Former Ennis Hospital Development Committee chairman, Peadar McNamara said that on one level he was surprised to learn of plans for another private hospital in the Mid-West, considering there appeared to be problems proceeding with co-located private hospitals on the grounds of public hospitals.
He criticised the Government and the HSE for closing down facilities in Ennis hospital, which private operators had now identified as a requirement for the community.
“The so-called reform of the health services consists of a downgrading of public facilities to clear the way for the delivery of health services by private operators. The vast majority of people who don’t have private health insurance will have to rely on public health services in Limerick hospital, which is struggling to cope with Clare patients because of overcrowding,” he said.


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