St James’s Hospital is the largest teaching university hospital in Dublin and one of most important medical centres in the State. Allied to Trinity College Dublin, the hospital has over 4,000 staff and sees up to 30m visitors each year. With the onset of the development of the new co-located National Children’s Hospital at St James’s, the hospital campus is now undergoing an impressive transformation, combining new state of the art facilities, modern treatment methods and wider links to the surrounding community.
A potted history
A poorhouse for the growing city of Dublin was originally mooted for the site in the 1660s during the post-Restoration flourishing of Dublin, however it took over 50 years for a project to finally come to realization in 1727, with the opening of a foundling hospital. Several distinguished citizens served on the board of the hospital in its early years, including Arthur Guinness and Dean Jonathan Swift. The hospital was closed in the early years of the 19th century and the buildings were used as a workhouse and known as the South Dublin Union. The workhouse infirmary, which originally catered for sick inmates only, began to take on an increasingly active role as an infirmary for the sick poor of the area. Some extremely competent physicians worked here at this period in what was a time of great innovation in medicine and surgery, often with Irish practitioners to the fore.
20th Century Hospital
In 1916, the South Dublin Union was occupied by rebel forces and during the fighting a member of the nursing staff was accidentally killed. The hospital continued to develop as a municipal hospital following Irish independence and the name was changed to St Kevin’s Hospital. Later in the 20th century plans were made to amalgamate some of the so-called “Federated Dublin Voluntary Hospitals” to build a new St. Kevin’s, which became known as St. James’s in 1971. With the closure and consolidation of hospitals in the city in the 1980s, St James’s increased further in size to cover an extensive site between The Liberties, Rialto and Kilmainham-SCR.
The hospital still retains a number of its earlier buildings, but most of the current campus was built in the early 1990s. The investment being made now, including the National Children’s Hospital, is seeing an unprecedented expansion and reorganisation of the site.
Opening of MISA and a ‘hospital without walls’
2016 saw completion of the Mercer Institute for Successful Agency, a new specialist centre for gerontology and treatment of age-related diseases. MISA occupies a pivotal site in the campus fronting onto Herberton and Fatima and the next phase of work will see a new pedestrian entrance and piazza created through to Fatima Luas, opening the southern flank of the campus to the surrounding neighbourhood.
Ambitious plans are also in train to develop or improve entrances from James Street and SCR, and to create a more outward looking campus.
Within the older section of the hospital, Hospital 1 the old South Dublin Infirmary, has been refurbished as St James’s Private Clinic, while new staff facilities have been developed on what was originally an orchard garden attached to the early hospital.
Arrival of the National Children’s Hospital
St James’s was chosen as the location for a tertiary children’s hospital, collocated with an adult teaching hospital (and potentially a new maternity hospital) in 2014 and planning permission for a striking new oval-shaped building was granted early in 2016.
The new hospital is set for completion in 2020 and work has now been completed to clear the site and to decant the various uses to other parts of the hospital. The new hospital building is just one element of the wider project that includes new family accommodation, medical facilities and allied services, new public realm interventions including piazza-style approaches to the hospital at SCR and Rialto and the creation of a quality linear park alongside the Luas line. Administrative offices for the hospital are now located in previously-empty units of adjoining Herberton, bringing new daytime activity to the neighbourhood. The NCH development will also include two satellite centres at Blanchardstown and Tallaght. On commissioning, the entire campus will have over 8,000 staff.
Health Innovation Corridor
The developing campus has set its sights wider with the ambition to be at the heart of a new health and ‘life sciences’ district for Dublin 8. It is envisaged that the revitalised teaching hospital and national children’s hospital will attract a range of complementary uses and businesses to its surrounds, in areas such as medical devices and procedures, healthcare techniques and biomedical. The hospital is building connections to business hubs such as The Digital Hub and GEC. The wider health innovation corridor will see areas around the hospital redeveloped and will spur commercial and residential development in the area. It will maximise the use of transport facilities such as Luas and national rail and stimulate further improvements to the areas accessibility and connectivity to the wider city.
With over €1bn of initial investment by the State alone, it’s a true urban regeneration opportunity for south west Dublin.