Another delay on children's hospital
A DECISION on the location of the new national children's hospital will not be made until September at the earliest, the Irish Independent has learned.
It is yet another delay in the long-running saga.
The hospital had initially been due to open this year -- but is now unlikely to open before 2017.
Health Minister James Reilly said in early June that he would bring a recommendation to the Cabinet within weeks, because the facility is so urgently required.
However, a spokesman for the minister said last night that this was no longer possible and a recommendation on the location of the hospital would not be made until the Government returned in the autumn.
Reasons for the latest delay are understood to include an inability to confirm the projected costs put forward by different bidders.
It now looks like it will be 2017 at the earliest before the new facility is built -- leaving the three outdated children's hospitals struggling to cope.
Planning permission to build the hospital on the original chosen site of the Mater Hospital in Dublin was rejected in March.
It led to a government-appointed review group, chaired by businessman Frank Dolphin, examining different locations.
The group submitted a 70-page report to Mr Reilly in early June, after receiving nearly 40 site offers and meeting 21 groups. It did not recommend any one site but set out the pros and cons of each.
The main contenders remain sites near the Mater Hospital, St James's Hospital and Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown, which all offer free lands.
Around €200m of funding for the hospital is due to come from the sale of the National Lottery next year, but the building and fitting would cost around €431m more.
The minister's spokesman said last night that the minister hoped to raise the location issue "soon after the return of the Dail".
The first Cabinet meeting after the break is in early September. Even if the Mater site is chosen again, it will take three months to draw up a planning application.
Any other location would first have to go into a tendering process to recruit a design and architectural team.
Meanwhile, Fianna Fail spokesman on health Deputy Billy Kelleher last night called on the Government to "explain why it has raided funds earmarked for the hospital to finance projects in the economic stimulus announcement.
"The Government has announced that it will use money from the sale of state assets, including the National Lottery licence, to fund the stimulus outlined today. We were told the money from the sale of the National Lottery licence was to be used to finance the building of a new national children's hospital," he added.