Monday 15 July 2019

Opposition claims Government ‘asleep at the wheel’ over children’s hospital

Fianna Fail’s Dara Calleary accused the government of being unable to keep its capital projects on track.

Fianna Fail Health Spokesman Dara Calleary raised the costs of the National Children’s Hospital in the Dail on Thursday (Niall Carson/Pa Wire)
Fianna Fail Health Spokesman Dara Calleary raised the costs of the National Children’s Hospital in the Dail on Thursday (Niall Carson/Pa Wire)

By Michelle Devane, Press Association  

The Government has been accused of being “asleep at the wheel” for allowing the cost of the National Children’s Hospital to spiral out of control.

Fianna Fail’s Health Spokesman Dara Calleary described the management of the new children’s hospital as a “disaster”.

The bill for the hospital, which is currently under construction at the St James’s Hospital site in Dublin, is expected to be at least 1.7 billion euro.

It is due to open its doors in 2022.

“This a project that was meant to cost and was budgeted for 650 million euro now may cost two billion euro and may be higher,” Mr Calleary said.

The board of the new hospital appeared before the Oireachtas Health Committee on Wednesday to face questions over the soaring costs.

Mr Calleary claimed it was clear that those in charge of the project “neither seem to understand the costs or understand where this will end up”.

We were told 2040 was the great panacea for all our ills but it's now turned out to be built on a hill of beans Fianna Fail Health Spokesman Dara Calleary

He accused the Government of being unable to keep its capital projects on track and on budget one year into its Ireland 2040 plan.

He said the hospital project demonstrated the lack of planning and substance in the long-term plan.

Ireland 2040 is the Government’s 20-year planning framework for the country.

It was unveiled with much fanfare in February 2018.

“We were told 2040 was the great panacea for all our ills but it’s now turned out to be built on a hill of beans,” he said.

Mr Calleary asked the Tanaiste: “Why was the government and the minister in particular so asleep at the wheel while costs went so catastrophically out of control at the National Children’s Hospital.”

He also questioned whether other key projects would be delivered on time.

The cost of the hospital is 450 million euro higher than the 983 million euro approved by the Government two years ago.

But it is expected that another 300 million euro will be needed to cover extras before it is completed.

Tanaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said Ireland 2040 was a long-term plan and that it could not be dismissed over difficulties and challenges in one project.

“Don’t try to create an impression that a hugely ambitious development plan for the country is somehow not deliverable because there are some challenges and blockages that we need to overcome and that is always going to be the case,” Mr Coveney said.

But he admitted the government was not happy with the overspend.

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