Dáil debates

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Priority Questions

Hospitals Building Programme

3:00 pm

Photo of James ReillyJames Reilly (Dublin North, Fine Gael)
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Question 1: To ask the Minister for Health and Children the estimated cost of the new paediatric hospital; the funding to be provided by the State; the outstanding balance; is the State funding promised in place and available to the Hospital Board or has it to be borrowed on the international bond markets; when will construction commence; has the project been formally sanctioned in the new four year plan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42371/10]

Photo of Mary HarneyMary Harney (Minister, Department of Health and Children; Dublin Mid West, Independent)
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The new national paediatric hospital is a priority for the Government. The capital spending on it will be protected over the full lifetime of the project. The total estimated cost of the development, including the ambulatory and urgent care centre at Tallaght, is €650 million. This is €100 million less than a previous estimate because of the fall in building prices.

Of the total cost, €400 million is committed by the Exchequer and is reflected in the HSE's capital plan this year. This will be increased to a figure of €450 million in the HSE's capital plan for 2011. A total of €25 million has already been spent on the planning, design and support of the project since 2007. The balance will be met from philanthropic initiatives, estimated at €110 million, and from commercial and other sources of some €90 million. The commercial and other sources include a car park, commercial units, research funding, private clinics, universities and medical schools. One of the functions of the national paediatric hospital development board is to pursue philanthropic sources of funding. It is working intensively on this issue.

The development board is making good progress in planning and developing the new hospital at the Mater site. It has formally asked An Bord Pleanála for the project to be considered under the strategic infrastructure legislation and had an initial meeting with An Bord Pleanála on 5 November 2010. Subject to planning permission being granted, construction of the new hospital is scheduled to commence in the fourth quarter of 2011 with completion of construction scheduled for the end of 2014.

Photo of James ReillyJames Reilly (Dublin North, Fine Gael)
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In the current economic climate to think that we will raise €110 million through philanthropy borders on the unbelievable. I need not remind the House of what is happening on the bond markets and the difficulty the country would have had to raise funds which, thankfully, it does not have to do at the moment. There is great concern on this side of the House about the resignation of the chairman, Mr. Philip Lynch. Is it correct to say that the cost of digitalising record-keeping in the hospital has been underestimated and may not be sanctioned by the Department of Finance? A figure of €150 million has been mentioned. The Minister said she has had a meeting with An Bord Pleanála but when can we realistically expect to get a decision on whether planning has been granted on the site? They are the key questions.

Photo of Mary HarneyMary Harney (Minister, Department of Health and Children; Dublin Mid West, Independent)
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I detect the negative tone of the Deputy in the questions. The philanthropic contribution is highly achievable. The new person has a terrific track record in philanthropy. A foundation has been established and has received charitable status from the Revenue Commissioners. The year before last Toronto hospital raised $78 million. I visited the Starship Children's Hospital in New Zealand which receives huge philanthropic contributions. It is not unusual and I and many others believe the contribution expected to be raised over a four-year period, that is, €110 million, is highly achievable. There have already been indications from individuals of their interest in this area.

Technology it is part of the HSE's wider technology system. Routers, switches and so on will go in as part of the capital construction but technology will be part of the HSE's ICT spend over the next three years and will be a large part of the capital plan next year and in future. What the Deputy suggested is not true. A number of people try to find every single negative that they possibly can about the hospital.

Mr. Brian Fitzgerald, the financial controller of St. James's Hospital, is currently working with the two of the three children's hospitals which will be coming together, Temple Street and Crumlin, on their enterprise and resource planning. As part of that they will be examining the SAP or Oracle systems and that will then transfer over to the new children's hospital. It is estimated the ICT spend at the hospital will be in the region of €60 million.

Photo of James ReillyJames Reilly (Dublin North, Fine Gael)
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Would the Minister like to answer my question on planning?

Photo of Mary HarneyMary Harney (Minister, Department of Health and Children; Dublin Mid West, Independent)
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It is engaging with An Bord Pleanála and expects to be in a position, subject to it approving it as a strategic infrastructure project, to apply for planning permission in the first or second month of next year.

Photo of James ReillyJames Reilly (Dublin North, Fine Gael)
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I wanted to know when it is likely to get planning permission not when it was likely to apply for it.

Photo of Mary HarneyMary Harney (Minister, Department of Health and Children; Dublin Mid West, Independent)
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If it is a strategic infrastructure project the purpose of the legislation was to reduce the timeframe for getting planning permission. The idea is that the construction of the project would begin at the end of next year.

Photo of James ReillyJames Reilly (Dublin North, Fine Gael)
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We will not expect any planning permission until the end of 2011. That is useful. New Zealand is not Ireland in 2010 or 2011. The Jack and Jill Foundation, one of the most successful charitable organisations in the country, has had to resort to seeking additional funding from the HSE because it failed to meet its targets in its philanthropic endeavours, and the people concerned are realists. We want realism not fantasy. Does the Minister really believe it is possible to raise €90 million from commercial enterprises based on a car park, which parents have been told they will be allowed free use of, and a coffee shop?

Photo of Mary HarneyMary Harney (Minister, Department of Health and Children; Dublin Mid West, Independent)
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Yes, and I have been strongly advised that consultants' private rooms and so on will also be involved. It is realistic. I remember answering questions in this House a year ago about whether the funding arrangement we put in place for the cystic fibrosis unit in St. Vincent's Hospital was realistic; of course it was and it was bankable. Manchester spent 40 years bickering about a site. It then took nine years to decide on a preferred site and four years to build it. If one talks to the people of Manchester from all the different components of the three hospitals involved everybody was totally happy that the right decision was made and I believe that is what we need to do here. I hope to have the Deputy's support.