Friday 15 November 2019

Taoiseach denies James Reilly will have final say on children’s hospital location

Lyndsey Telford

UNDER-FIRE Health Minister James Reilly will not have the final say on the location of Ireland's new national children's hospital, the Taoiseach has insisted.

Enda Kenny said the Government would take on board recommendations from the minister but, ultimately, it would make the final decision as a whole.

"The Minister for Health will bring his recommendations to myself as Taoiseach and to the Tanaiste in the next 10 days, and the Government at Cabinet will make a decision," said Mr Kenny.

Dr Reilly will deliver his recommendations, following the findings of a report from an expert group, to government within the next fortnight.

It is reported that he is likely to recommend Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown as the most suitable site for the new hospital.

The group, appointed in March, was made up of doctors, architects and planners and chaired by former Health Service Executive (HSE) chairman Frank Dolphin.

It considered more than 40 bids for the site, including Connolly, the Mater Hospital and St James's Hospital.

The Taoiseach said Dr Reilly had reflected on the Dolphin report and that the Department of Health carried out its own reviews.

The Health Minister will make his recommendations based on those findings.

Dr Reilly appointed the special review group earlier this year after An Bord Pleanala rejected controversial government plans to build a 15-storey building on the Mater site in north Dublin.

The planning appeals board argued that the original planned 74m-high building over 100,000 sq ft was too large and out of place with the Georgian city skyline.

It has been estimated that €33 million has been spent on the 400-bed project to date. Around €200 million in funding was earmarked from the sale of a National Lottery licence, with the winning bidder tied to an upfront payment.

It was originally anticipated that the new national children's hospital would be completed by 2016. Following the last setback in March, Dr Reilly insisted that the Government would do its best to ensure as little delay as possible.

The minister has been under continued fire over recent months following a string of controversial decisions including health cuts proposals and an embittered relationship with a junior minister that led to her quitting.

Opposition TDs and two MEPs from his own party, Labour, also called for his resignation.

Last week he was forced to reject claims that he acted unethically, following revelations that he was an associate of the owner of a site contentiously marked for a new primary care centre.

Dr Reilly was also charged with a conflict of interest after he added two locations in his north Dublin constituency to the priority list for the health centres, after a draft was already finalised and approved by former minister of state Roisin Shortall and the HSE.

Ms Shortall resigned last month following a rift that came to a head after it emerged Dr Reilly did not consult her over his primary care centre plans.

She accused him of stroke politics and questioned his ability to lead the health service.

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