CASH-strapped HSE bosses offered more than the market value for a 13-acre site near the proposed National Children's Hospital – but it has refused to say how much it overpaid.
It forked out €8m-plus for the site in south inner city Dublin, near the campus of St James's Hospital where the children's facility will be built.
The HSE already has sufficient space – extending to around 14 acres – within the St James's campus for the children's hospital building, but the additional land it bought nearby gives it options for additional buildings catering for research facilities or other services.
A report to the HSE board revealed that the approach it took was to offer in excess of the market value for the site in Davitt Road.
It said the high price paid was necessary in order to "have a level of certainty that the site could be secured through the best bids process".
There were "significant risks" to the development of the hospital if the HSE failed to secure the site. The board gave the go-head to proceed with the purchase.
The site – which had been the location of the Lyons Tea and Lever factories – was originally bought by a UK property developer in 2007 for €65m, but the land plummeted in value after the collapse in property prices. The HSE already had a strip of land nearby.
The new children's hospital is scheduled to be completed by 2018, and and a tender for a design team has now been re-issued.
A spokeswoman for the HSE declined to say how much the market price of the site was, but said it took "advantage of the depressed land market to pick up a strategically important land bank".
She said the HSE got the site for a "small fraction of its peak market value in 2007".
"It is envisaged that this site will provide significant capacity to facilitate the planned developments at the St James's Hospital campus," she said.
"The longer-term use of the site will be agreed as part of the reorganisation of health services in the Dublin area."
In a recent update on the proposed children's hospital, Health Minister James Reilly said the aim was to have the new design team in place by the end of this year.
"Pre-application planning discussions have commenced and the aim is to secure planning permission by December 2014," he said.
He said a review of where urgent care centres to cater for children who present to other hospitals are needed was almost complete.
"The number and location of these satellite centres in the Dublin area is a key decision as their size, activity and infrastructure have implications for the main hospital brief," he said.
"In parallel, St James's Hospital is working closely with HSE Estates and the National Paediatric Development Board in regard to the decant phase of the project."
"The new children's hospital is a priority for me and for this Government. I am confident that the appointments made to the two boards will ensure the new hospital is completed as swiftly as possible, with optimal design and value for money."