€16m spent on hospital despite row over site
MORE than €16m has already been spent on planning for the controversial €650m national children's hospital even though there are major questions over whether it will be built in the proposed location.
Arguments regarding its planned location at the Mater Hospital in Dublin's north inner city have resurfaced, after former development board chairman Philip Lynch raised serious concerns and resigned.
However, a spokesman for Health Minister Mary Harney insisted last night the location would not change -- despite claims that other members of the board also had misgivings about the plan.
The high level of spending to date makes it difficult for the government to revise the decision, even if it wanted to.
If the plan is scrapped by the next government it will lose at least €16m already spent on the project to the end of 2009 -- as well as more costs this year -- as any new development would have to start from square one.
If planning permission is granted next spring tenders for builders will have to be issued, and construction will begin this time next year, which leaves no room for return.
Mr Lynch was asked to resign by the minister after he highlighted his worries.
He was concerned about having to raise €110m from charitable sources, about the size and access to the Mater site and about the lack of any work done so far on sorting out how it will be run as three rival hospitals -- with various traditions -- united under the one roof.
Much of the money spent to date has gone on hiring experts on design, project management and business management to work out the detail of the 445-bed hospital, which will go to An Bord Pleanala in four months.
Money has also been spent on hiring a private public relations.
The development board is also locked into various contracts worth nearly €30m which would have legal repercussions if the entire plan is scrapped.
Mr Lynch, who approached developer Noel Smyth who is offering to build a hospital at cost price on a site at Newlands Cross, is believed to have received support from other members of the development board, but he is the only member to have resigned so far.
Ms Harney has now appointed John Gallagher of the Doyle hotel empire as chairman in his place.
He is among the small group of Irish developers who is richer now than in the boom years having off-loaded a string of hotels -- including the flagship Jurys in Ballsbridge, the Berkeley Court and the Burlington -- for a total of €2bn.
Together with his partners, he is believed to have made a €1bn profit on the deals.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the National Children's Hospital Alliance, made up of doctors and parents opposing the Mater site, yesterday objected to the minister "constantly referring to parents" supporting the location.
The location is supported by another organisation called the New Crumlin Hospital Group.