Tuesday 16 January 2018

Children's hospital delay costing €650,000 a month

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

The national children's hospital project -- which has been put on hold pending a review by Health Minister James Reilly -- is costing the taxpayer up to €650,000 a month, it was revealed last night.

Dr Reilly was warned about the cost by his officials and the dangers of delaying its progress by putting a break on proposals to submit planning permission to build it on the Mater hospital site in March.

The briefing material comes just days after the resignation of John Gallagher, chairman of the development board, who objected to Dr Reilly's review, which will take several months.

Dr Reilly said he wants to examine the final bill for the hospital, which is currently put at €650m. But according to Department of Health officials, every month it is delayed will cost between €550,000 to €650,000.

Planning

The project employs a range of permanent staff and is also involved in a series of expensive contracts covering design and other aspects of the planning.

The officials said the hospital design was at the stage where planning permission was due to be submitted and the tendering for a contractor was ready by March.

The document warned that a "decision to move the location would result in considerable delay to the project".

The original aim was to have the hospital open in 2015.

Dr Reilly is currently doing his own internal review and is expected to get the opinion of outside experts.

The officials express optimism that the hospital will get planning permission to be built on the Mater site, although conditions are likely to be attached.

It said its case would be helped by the fact that the Local Area Plan and the City Development Plan both locate the hospital at the Mater site.

However, limits could be set, which would adversely affect its development.

The document said that the Health Service Executive has estimated that the cost of building the hospital to the same specification on a greenfield site would be in the region of €50m less than building on an existing site such as the Mater.

"However, this is an indicative figure only, and will vary depending critically on the nature of the individual greenfield site, including the cost of additional elements such as the extent of connecting roads required, provision of utilities such as gas, water and drainage, land acquisition and increased need for car parking," the document said.

"Any projected capital saving from this option would be once-off, and would ultimately be offset by savings every year in running costs on an integrated child/adult campus," it added.

Developer Noel Smyth has already offered a site for the new hospital for free near Newlands Cross.

A sign has been erected saying the hospital would be built now if the offer had been taken up.

Irish Independent

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