'Kids' hospital decision in two months'

  • Niall Hunter, Editor

Health Minister James Reilly has said it is likely to be another two months before a final decision is made on the future of the national children's hospital development at the Mater site.

The Minister told reporters today he was acutely aware of the high cost of maintaining the current hospital development board in place while a decision was made on the location and costings of the project, but stressed that a final decision on such an important project must not be rushed.

Department officials have already told the Minister that the Mater project is currently costing the taxpayer up to €650,000 per month in terms of of project management and planning work before a brick is laid.

Dr Reilly said he was acutely aware of the cost of maintaining the development board while a final decision was being made.

"I think it would be penny-wise and pound-foolish to rush into a decision, although I am acutely aware of the cost of maintaining the board while we make this decision and acknowledging that we are economically under ferocious pressure."

Asked about confusion over whether a decision on the Mater site's suitability would take weeks or months, Dr Reilly said in terms of timing, the decision on the Mater site would be made within the next couple of months.

He said the decision would take a month after a review committee was appointed.

The Minister said there was some further preliminary work to be done before a review group would be asked to deliberate on the matter and this work was nearly complete.

Dr Reilly said clarity was being sought around what the Mater project would cost compared to the cost of building the project on an alternative greenfield site.

He said among the issues to be considered by the review committee would be whether the disadvantages concerning access to the Mater outweighed the advantages of the children's hospital being co-located with the adult Mater hospital.

The Minister said there was also a question of whether the money was available for the project.

Dr Reilly announced that businessman Harry Crosbie had been appointed interim chair of the children's hospital development board.

He said any planned change to the community rating system for health insurance would be taken in the overall context of forthcoming legislation on risk equalisation.

irishhealth.com revealed yesterday that draft regulations being forwarded for consideration by the Minister provide for a new system of gradually higher premia to be applied to customers the longer they wait to take out health insurance for the first time.

This would be aimed at encouraging people to take out health insurance earlier in their adult life rather than later.

The Minister said he felt it was strange that somebody who had insured themselves in their twenties, when they reached their sixties, were paying the same insurance premium as someone in their 60s who had just decided to take up insurance for the first time.

"The mechanisms of how we address that I am not in a position to say. There is an issue there. but in terms of any specific plan to deal with that that will be taken in the overall context of forthcoming legislation on risk equalisation."



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