Controversy over children's hospital continues

Development Board chair resigns
  • Deborah Condon

The Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure, Paschal Donohoe, has said that he believes the building of the new national children's hospital should go ahead on the St James's Hospital site, despite the escalating costs attached to the project.

The cost of building the hospital has jumped from €987 million in 2018 to €1.4billion now. However, this is without the hospital even being fitted out. The final cost could exceed €1.7 billion.

At the weekend, the chair of the National Hospital Paediatric Development Board, Tom Costello, resigned. He had held the role since 2013 and insisted that since then, ‘the hospital project has achieved many significant milestones' and is due to be completed by 2022.

"I have acted with professionalism and integrity in all my dealings with the project stakeholders including the Minister for Health and his department. Every decision made by the board has been guided by what was deemed best for the project.

"I am concerned about the reputational damage that the ongoing commentary about the increased cost of the hospital is having on this critically important project and so I have decided to step down from my role to help ensure that focus is restored on delivering the project," he said.

His resignation was accepted by the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, who thanked him for his service and 'exceptional commitment to the project for the past six years'.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland programme, Minister Donohoe said that information about the escalating costs should have been made available earlier.

"Things should have been done differently in relation to the flow of information," he said.

However, he admitted that he was involved in the decision to go ahead with the hospital at the higher cost because ‘if we do not go ahead with this project, even at the higher cost, we are not going to deliver a transformative project for the health of young children in this country'.

He added that he will be in a position shortly to outline other health projects that will be adversely affected by the escalating costs of the new hospital.

A review into why the construction costs have risen so much is being carried out by PwC at a cost of almost half a million euro. At the weekend, the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, said that the terms of reference for this review have been changed so that individuals can be held accountable for the cost overruns.

Prior to this, the PwC review could not make findings against individuals involved.

 


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