Tuesday 20 March 2018

State brings out begging bowl to meet €110m hospital shortfall

An artist's impression of the planned National Children's Hospital, which is to be based on the Mater Hospital campus in Dublin.
An artist's impression of the planned National Children's Hospital, which is to be based on the Mater Hospital campus in Dublin.
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

ONE euro in every six needed to build the €650m National Children's Hospital will have to come from charitable donations, it emerged yesterday.

As well as requiring a begging bowl for a huge €110m, the hospital, which was due to open in Dublin in 2014, will not be ready until early 2015.

The 445-bed facility, to be built on the campus of the Mater Hospital, was on course to be a world class facility, offering single en-suite rooms to every young patient, development board chief executive Eilish Hardiman insisted at a briefing yesterday.

But the board has to raise €110m of the funding from "philanthropic sources" here and abroad -- with no pledges on the table yet.

She said that €450m would come from the State and another €90m would be generated from commercial activities such as the car park and shops.


But a "capital campaign" involving high-level networking by experts to secure "major gifts" from wealthy donors -- including Ireland's diaspora community in the United States -- will be launched globally, .

Asked if she was confident of raising the funds she said: "The board has taken its remit very seriously. . . we will be looking to the diaspora.

"It is a highly specialised area. We have three years and you do it first in a quiet way and then to the point where there is a pledge for the project.

"I think when it comes to philanthropy that it is very important that they see the plans and see the progress -- it is linked to how the project is progressing."

Asked why the State was leaving so much of the funding to the mercy of charity, a spokesman for the Department of Health said last night that including philanthtropic donations in the price was based on experience of building hospital abroad, particularly children's facilities.

"The core of the hospital is covered by guaranteed funding," he added.

Ms Hardiman said it would be necessary to include the stages dependent on outside donations before final building tenders were accepted.

She expects the first sod to be turned at the end of next year, subject to planning permission. There will be an oral hearing to allow objectors to put forward their case.

She refused to comment on the resignation of former chairman Philip Lynch, who reportedly was asked to step down by Health Minister Mary Harney after he expressed concern about the funding shortfall.

Ms Harney said she did "not know" why he resigned and was "not privy to that information". His place has now been taken by businessman John Gallagher.

Ms Hardiman said one of the key features would be proper accommodation for parents. "Around 200 parents will sleep under their child's bed in the three children's hospitals tonight."

An urgent care centre will be built in Tallaght Hospital and this should be open by 2013.

She said the project got a major "thumbs up" yesterday with the news that the Faculty of Paediatrics, representing paediatricians, supported the hospital.


A spokesman for the faculty said yesterday that it strongly supported the hospital but stressed that "adequate funding must be provided to equip and staff the hospital to the best international standards in child health care".

However, retired paediatrician Dr Roisin Healy said there were still strong reservations among her colleagues both in the Dublin hospitals and around the country .

Dr Healy, who heads the New Children's Hospital Alliance opposing the location said major concerns remained about what was still just a "virtual hospital".

Ms Hardiman said that 140,000sqm were available on the site and the hospital would take up just 112,000sqm, leaving plenty of space for the 25,000 sqm new Rotunda hospital to be built there in the future.

Questioned on claims that the hospital would be cheaper to build on a green-field site she said the savings would be lost by not co-locating it with an adult hospitals and bringing the benefits of care to children. It also did not take into account the continuing costs of the hospital.

Irish Independent

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