Saturday 17 August 2019

Board of the NCH to grow in size despite cost fiasco

Due to meet minister: New board chairman Fred Barry. Photo: Tom Burke
Due to meet minister: New board chairman Fred Barry. Photo: Tom Burke
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

There will be no "clear-out" of the board overseeing the construction of the new National Children's Hospital despite sharp criticism of its role in costs of the project escalating to €1.7bn, according to Health Minister Simon Harris.

Instead, he expects to add more members to the board to strengthen its expertise in areas like hospital building.

He said he had powers by way of statutory instrument to alter the size of the board.

The minister is due to meet board chairman Fred Barry in the coming days.

Mr Harris was speaking at the Oireachtas Health Committee yesterday after the publication of the PwC analysis of the hospital costs.

Removing people from the board would lose corporate memory, the report said.

A spokeswoman for the board said yesterday it would not be commenting on the report until it had had a chance to review it.

There is currently one vacancy on the board.

Mr Harris also expects to change governance arrangements. He has accepted the report recommendations and aims to bring forward a plan for their implementation in a month.

Replying to questions from Fianna Fáil TD Stephen Donnelly and Sinn Féin's Jonathan O'Brien, he insisted the report indicated the escalating price - up by €450m since April 2017 - was not a waste of taxpayers' money but rather an error in calculating its cost.

He said there was a responsibility on the professional firms hired for the project to give accurate financial predictions.

The fear now is that the cost will rise even further and the aim is to control this as much as possible, he added.

There are also lessons to be learned for other public projects, including the national maternity hospital.

The Department of Health has no expertise in the area of construction and it might be worth looking at that, he added.

The hospital, which is being built at St James's Hospital, is due to be finished in 2022 and open in 2023.

Irish Independent

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