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Sunday 22 September 2019

Investigation to be launched into how cost of new Children's Hospital spiralled to €1.4bn

New children’s hospital may be ‘the world’s dearest’-  but also the ‘world’s best’ – Taoiseach tells Dáil

Health in focus: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar meets Kate Brady and Tom Brady (five months), from Castleknock, after he officially opened the Acute Stroke Unit at Connolly Hospital yesterday. Photo: RollingNews.ie
Health in focus: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar meets Kate Brady and Tom Brady (five months), from Castleknock, after he officially opened the Acute Stroke Unit at Connolly Hospital yesterday. Photo: RollingNews.ie

Kevin Doyle and John Downing

AN INVESTIGATION is to be launched after the estimated cost of the new National Children’s Hospital spiralled by more than €400m in just six weeks.

Cabinet ministers have now sanctioned an indicative spend of €1.433bn on the complex, despite Health Minister Simon Harris putting the cost at less than €1bn in September.

The hospital is the largest single investment in healthcare ever undertaken in Ireland – but the rising cost in now causing significant alarm.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin said the “ballooning costs” were “beyond comprehension”.

Work has already begun clearing a site for the development on the grounds of St James’s Hospital in Dublin.

Ultimately the plan is to bring together the services currently available in Crumlin, Temple Street and Tallaght under one roof. The state-of-the-art facility will also have two satellite centres in Blanchardstown and Tallaght.

In the Dáil, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: “It may turn out to be one of the most expensive children’s hospitals in the world but it will also be one of the best.”

He pointed to inflation in the construction as a key factor for the jump in costs.

Of the additional €450m now required, Mr Varadkar said €319m was linked to increased construction costs while €50m is VAT. The remainder relates to staff planning, design teams, risk contingency and management equipment services.

“There will be further investigations as to how these costs escalated by so much since April last year and the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board will be available to brief members of the Committee of Public Accounts...” Mr Varadkar said.

Pushed on whether the figures now being quoted go rise further, the Taoiseach said it is “possible”. “It may be the upper limit but it is based on certain contingencies,” he admitted.

Mr Martin questioned how the Health Minister publicly state figures last September which are now very wrong.

“In the space of about six weeks it has apparently gone from less than €1 billion to €1.4 billion, which is extraordinary stuff,” he said.

“The ballooning costs of the children’s hospital and the nature of how this has come into the public domain suggests that many of these requirements of hospitals across the country will not be met now because of the impact of the soaring costs of the children’s hospital and the lack of any controls put in place.”

Mr Varadkar also said that people appointed to the board had experience in large projects and would attend the Public Accounts Committee to answer questions. Committee. He said the project was based on an “agreed maximum price” but he could not rule out further cost increases.

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