Thursday 22 August 2019

Emails show Children's Hospital chief resigned 'reluctantly'

Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

The former chair of the new Children's Hospital Board, Tom Costello, told colleagues he was reluctant to step down from the role last month, amid controversy surrounding the cost of the project, new correspondence shows.

Mr Costello tendered his resignation at the height of public anger and concern about an over-spend at the St James's site, saying he was "concerned about the reputational damage" criticism of the project would bring.

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Speaking publicly at the time, he said he "acted with professionalism and integrity" during his six years on the board.

Correspondence obtained by the Sunday Independent, under the Freedom of Information Act, shows Mr Costello stood down from his role as chair of the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board (NPHDB) with a heavy heart.

The estimated cost of the new hospital at the St James's Hospital site in Dublin has increased from its original estimate of €650m to more than €1.7bn.

It had previously been proposed to build the hospital at the Mater Hospital at an expected cost of €450m but this was not granted planning permission.

On the morning he tendered his resignation last month, Mr Costello sent an email to senior officials working on the project.

The email was sent shortly after 11am on February 2. He explained that he enjoyed his time working on the project but had come to the conclusion he had to vacate his role.

"Reluctantly I have decided to step down from my role as chairman of the NPHDB," Mr Costello wrote.

He added that he would keep watch on the project from afar and promised to maintain a personal interest in the development of the new hospital.

"I have thoroughly enjoyed working with you all and I thank you most sincerely for your commitment and dedication to this once-in-a-lifetime project.

"I wish you every good wish in the days and years ahead as you move to project completion.

"I will be keeping a close eye on progress."

The email was sent to nine senior project officials, including: project director John Pollock; project monitoring committee administrator Elaine O'Rourke; commercial director Declan Holmes; and development board executive Pat Molloy.

Director for programme management Richard Fitzpatrick, design director Phelim Devine, financial officer Jim Farragher, executive communications manager Rhonda Evans and commercial adviser Norman Craig were also made aware of his decision to resign with immediate effect.

These officials were also sent a copy of Mr Costello's public statement. In it, he indicated he was concerned public commentary about rising costs would distract focus from delivering the project.

He said he wanted to make the public aware his decision was grounded on concerns about "the reputational damage that the ongoing commentary about the increased cost of the hospital is having on this critically important project".

Mr Costello added he was satisfied the project would be delivered by 2022.

Mr Costello, who has more than 30 years' experience working in construction, before becoming a consultant, was appointed to the hospital's development board by then Health Minister James Reilly in 2013.

He did not respond when contacted by the Sunday Independent last week.

Sunday Independent

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