The building of a new private hospital at Newtown Road in Wexford at an estimated cost of €40 million, has been delayed indefinitely because of Covid-19 restrictions which are preventing overseas specialists from travelling here to work on the project.
Construction work on the world-class hospital was due to start in July with medical consultants and technical experts from China, India, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates scheduled to arrive in Wexford as building work began.
But Ireland's two-week quarantine requirement for countries not on the Government's travel Green List, has proved a deterrent for the consultant teams as they faced sitting around for a fortnight in Wexford doing nothing rather than continuing to work on projects in their own countries.
'It's a very high-tech project with computerised self-operating theatres and we have to get quite a lot of personnel from overseas countries where the expertise is but people don't want to come here and have to isolate for two weeks. Many of them were coming from China. The biggest problem we have is the two weeks of isolation,' said Mr. Suhail Khan, CEO of Slaney Clinic Ltd.
He and chairman Mr. Mark Mulhern, also a consultant doctor, have been working on the project for the past few years and secured financial backing from investors.
'The second problem we had was that we were required to issue a commencement notice before starting and because the County Council was closed, we could not do that and also the architects were not working during the lockdown,' he said.
'It is very disappointing. Unfortunately, it has been a big set-back. Because of the economics involved in it, we didn't want to start something half-cooked and then have to stop,' said Dr. Khan.
'Unfortunately all plans are delayed for the forseeabloe future because of the pandemic crisis and no accurate time lines can be be provided because of ongoing uncertainty,' he said.
The hospital structure is to be built by local contractors but because of the sophisticated nature of the facilities that are being installed, specialists have to be on the ground with the architect to oversee the construction and fit-out and run tests.
'We were due to start on July 22 with completion time of 24 months. Our aim was to start running the hospital by July 2022. We were certain that we would start by July but when all the planes were grounded, we realised that it would not be that straightforward. We haven't laid the first stone yet', said Mr. Khan.
Slaney Clinic Ltd. have been receiving email enquiries from people interested in working in the hospital but unfortunately he cannot give them a timeline for when it will be built.
'To start it, we have to put full plans in place, we have to fly people in and have everyone here on the ground with the architect.'
'We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has shown a keen interest in applying for jobs and would like to join Slaney Clinic as their future workplace once it's up and running but unfortunately it's disappointing for all of us because of current Pandemic situation.
'We are hoping that as soon as this Covid-19 crisis is over we will announce a commencement date and time lines for the project,' he said.
The Government take-over of private hospitals during the height of the Coronavirus response, had also raised questions about the future role of private hospitals in the country.
Slaney Clinic Ltd are trying to collaborate with State organisations including the HSE on possible options for the project and the CEO and chairman and their business advisors Deloitte Ireland LLP are continuing to meet with various groups for business meetings.
Planning permission was granted in February for the hospital which would provide specialist health care services and procedures in cardiology, oncology, radiology and physiotherapy to both private and public patients, eliminating the need for people to travel outside the county.
The facilities include a late-night pharmacy, laboratory, endoscopy room, 24 consultant rooms, high-tech operating rooms and a 28-bed day ward.
The site adjacent to Wexford General Hospital and opposite the Department of Environment and County Council headquarters was formerly owned by the Council which sold it to slaney Clinic early in 2019 for €250,000. The private hospital was designed by Arcadia Architects of Ardcavan