Seanad debates

Tuesday, 26 September 2023

Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

Hospital Facilities

1:00 pm

Photo of Malcolm ByrneMalcolm Byrne (Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit. The national children's hospital is something we all want to see happen and we know its importance, but there continues to be growing concern about the cost and ensuring it is completed. James Reilly, who was the Minister for Health when this deal was originally drawn up and signed, indicated that it would cost €650 million. Planning was secured at the St. James's site in 2016, and the initial budget, as set out then, was €983 million. By December 2018. the then Minister, Deputy Simon Harris, indicated that the figure would be €1.433 billion and that there could be additional costs. By the end of 2021, Robert Watt, the Secretary General of the Department, said the cost would be higher than €1.7 billion. When I raised this as a Commencement matter in March 2022, the then junior Minister, Deputy Frankie Feighan, indicated that the cost would be €1.73 billion. We were told this July that it was anticipated that the cost of the national children's hospital will finally top €2 billion.

The deal that was signed by James Reilly with BAM seems to be out of control.People are losing confidence in getting this hospital completed. It certainly will not be completed on budget and it is not being completed on time. The indications I received when previously I raised this as a Commencement matter were that it would be completed towards the end of 2024, and I hope the Minister of State can reassure us that will be the case.

We need to know what the final budget is going to be and what is projected by the Department. I know, for instance, that the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board was concerned that BAM had achieved only 67% of its planned output levels in the past year. This is a significant concern, and the public are growing tired of the fact that every time they hear about the national children's hospital, it is not about the much-needed facilities we are going to have there but, instead, about what seem to be the costs running out of control. It is something on which we need complete clarity.

This all, obviously, began before the time of the Minister of State or the Minister for Health, and when in opposition, the Minister, Deputy Donnelly, raised the fact those controls did not seem to be in place. I am looking for assurances also regarding the much-needed national maternity hospital, another critical facility, co-located at St. Vincent's University Hospital. The tenders are currently out for the construction of the facility, but the public need to know that whatever deal is put in place, we will not see the kinds of cost spirals that we have seen at the national children's hospital. Will the Minister of State outline that what measures have been put in place concerning the national maternity hospital will ensure the debacle of the ongoing rise in costs at the children's hospital will not be repeated?


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