Tuesday 12 December 2017

Eamon Gilmore bypasses James Reilly on children's hospital decision

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore (left) and Health Minister James
Reilly (right).
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore (left) and Health Minister James Reilly (right).

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

TANAISTE Eamon Gilmore is carrying out his own research on children's hospital locations in a sign of a breakdown of trust in Health Minister James Reilly.

The behind-the-scenes moves illustrate just how poor the working relationship is between Dr Reilly and the Labour Party.

As a result, Mr Gilmore's advisers are talking with the various bidders and compiling their own file on where to locate the new national facility, the Irish Independent has learned.

Mr Gilmore's desire to be informed independently of the decision-making process follows the controversy over Dr Reilly's selection of primary care centres. "He does like to get his own information.

"Based on recent events, you can't say it's surprising," a senior government source said.

The children's hospital will be the largest capital infrastructure project agreed by the Government.

The race for the facility is neck-and-neck between St James's Hospital and James Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown, with the Coombe in third place as an "alternative" and the original site in the Mater Hospital in fourth.

"James's and Blanchardstown stand out, followed by the Coombe and then the Mater," a senior government source said.

Dr Reilly has got an expert report back assessing the options for the hospital.

The Dolphin Report, named after its chairman Frank Dolphin, didn't rank the different locations, leaving it up to Dr Reilly to make a recommendation.

The decision is due to be agreed between Taoiseach Enda Kenny, the Tanaiste and Health Minister before being brought to Cabinet for ratification.

But the trio has yet to meet, with no date scheduled for the discussion.

Despite Mr Kenny saying a fortnight ago that the decision would be taken within 10 days, there is no sign of it coming to Government.

Dr Reilly will formally take the decision to his cabinet colleagues with the endorsement of the Taoiseach and Tanaiste.

Mr Gilmore's officials have had meetings with a number of those involved in the various bids. There has also been specific information requested from bidders.

Advisers

"Gilmore's advisers are meeting all the different shortlisted hospitals. He is trying to inform himself. Kenny is happy to decide whatever Reilly recommends. His natural default position is to back the minister. Gilmore often second-guesses," a minister said.

"It is a big decision and . . . it's good to hear directly from those involved. There's nothing to it other than that," a government source said.

St James's Hospital is understood to be ahead on tertiary specialist areas, as it has a range of services on site, including blood transfusion, radiological, cardiological and neurological facilities.

"If James's had a 20-acre empty field beside it, it would be there now," a minister said.

Blanchardstown can be developed easily and quickly, but has a deficiency of specialist services.

The Coombe is in third place and regarded as a potential "alternative". It is regarded as working closely with St James's in specialist areas and has the benefit of having a maternity hospital on site.

The Mater Hospital is firmly in fourth place. While it has all the specialist areas on site, the same planning concerns arise that saw the original plan overturned by An Bord Pleanala.

The competition between the locations is still intense with the decision still open.

Dr Reilly's initially preferred location, a green-field site at Belcamp, fell out of the running because it "did not have anyone to push it seriously".

"It's not a runner for so many different reasons," a minister said.

Irish Independent

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