New health minister faces fresh row over hospital site
NEW Health Minister James Reilly was embroiled in his first controversy last night after a fresh row erupted over the site for the proposed national children's hospital.
The location of the €650m hospital -- currently planned to be on the campus of the Mater hospital in Dublin -- led to a clash between the current and former chairmen of the development board overseeing the project.
Businessman Philip Lynch, who stepped down as chairman last October, branded the choice of site as a "political decision", saying it would prove too expensive and be rejected by An Bord Pleanala because of access and traffic problems.
However, current chairman John Gallagher insisted he had undertaken a "complete review of the project" bringing on new expertise to the board, and he was convinced the Mater campus was "both capable of being, and suitable to be, the site of the new children's hospital".
He delivered a summary of the review to the new minister, but warned that there needs to be a government commitment on funding for the project.
Dr Reilly, in a pre-election promise, said he would carry out a review of the site to find out if it was pushing up the cost -- as he believed it could be built for €450m.
Mr Gallagher said he would welcome this examination which was "the most appropriate means of addressing and resolving any outstanding issues and any public concerns".
The examination he had conducted was the first time that the "bases and the assumptions" about the project had been reviewed.
Planning permission for the 445-bed hospital still has to be submitted, and it will not be ready until 2015.
It will be 16 storeys high and €110m will have to be raised through charitable donations.
Mr Lynch said there were three other sites available for free and he believed Our Lady's Hospital in Crumlin should be re-considered as a location.
In a clear reference to former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, he claimed everyone knew a "deal was done" between a prominent politician and the Mother Superior of the Mercy order or "whoever was in charge" that she would get her hospital on the site.
This was later flatly rejected by Sr Helena O'Donoghue of the Mercy order who said "no deal was done, and no such conversation took place".
Around €30m has already been ploughed into preparing the site and the new minister would have to consider this before ditching it for a new location.
The National Children's Hospital Alliance, made up of doctors and parents, oppose the Mater location, but it is supported by the New Crumlin Hospital Group.