Harris believes new children's hospital represents good value for money

Harris believes new children's hospital represents good value for money

By Digital Desk staff

The Health Minister said he believes the new National Children's Hospital does represent good value for money.

Simon Harris said the decision to go ahead with the project despite massive overruns is the best choice for the taxpayer.

He's faced more than four hours of questions at an Oireachtas committee this morning.

Fianna Fáil's Stephen Donnelly pressed Simon Harris on the issue of costs.

He asked the health minister: "Do you believe at the €1.4bn, do you believe that represents a reasonable price for the children's hospital?"

"I do," replied Minister Harris.

I wish it could be cheaper but I do.

"If I didn't the Government wouldn't have pressed go to proceed with the construction costs.

"We can't have a situation where I'm a member of a Government and we go and we make a collective decision to go with a hospital that we didn't think was a good decision to make."

Live: Children's hospital scandal akin to 'Fr Ted territory', says Alan Kelly

Labour's Alan Kelly has said the children's hospital cost debacle is akin to “Fr Ted territory”. It beggared belief, he said, that officials in health were not able to get a meeting with their counterparts in public expenditure in the lead up to the Budget last year when serious concerns about the build were known.

Department of Health officials have confirmed that in October last they were trying to sound the alarm bells about overruns with the project, amounting to potentially hundreds of millions of euro, with the Department of Public Expenditure.

But both sides were unable to meet until early November. This was after the Budget process.

Speaking at the Oireachtas Health Committee this morning, Mr Kelly criticised this delay, comparing the situation to “Fr Ted territory".

Harris believes new children's hospital represents good value for money

He also said it was “complete and utter garbage” that an official with the Department of Public Expenditure, who was on a board for the hospital, was not required to report concerns to Minister Paschal Donohoe.

Revised terms for a review into the hospital build were agreed yesterday, which include allocating blame and recommendations on how to reduce down the costs.

Speaking about the PwC probe, Health Minister Simon Harris said:

"When we know who got what wrong, we are going to act."

Harris says he was unaware of children's hospital cost implications before last year's Budget

Health Minister Simon Harris has said he did not know about cost implications for the children's hospital during the lead up to the Budget process last year.

He has confirmed to the Health Committee this morning that there was a request for an extra €60m back in August 2017. But he said there was no other information given to him about excessive costs for almost a year after that.

This comes after leaked meetings of a hospital board this morning, which include a suggestion among members that concerns should be flagged with Government, particularly ahead of the budget last year.

Mr Harris maintains that the first time he became aware of an overrun of huge money for the national children's hospital was in August last year.

However, he was not aware of the board meetings where HSE and health officials among others were being told of cost concerns.

He said the government did not know about the impact of costs for spending and government until November 9, after the Budget process last year. The government ultimately signed off on the project in December last. It is now estimated that it will cost at least €1.5bn and potentially as much as €1.7b.

Sinn Fein TD Louise O'Reilly said this morning that the minister was acting like he wished he could have gone "back in a time machine" and made corrections.

Health Minister 'frustrated' by coverage of rising costs of National Children's Hospital

Harris believes new children's hospital represents good value for money

Latest: The Health Minister has said he is frustrated at some of the coverage of the National Children's Hospital scandal.

Reports have shown the increasing cost of the hospital was talked about at meetings in 2017 - almost a year before Minister Simon Harris found out.

However, he says those overruns were a different situation that did not require government action or extra funds.

Minister Harris also said this was made clear to Oireachtas committees last week.

The Minister has hit back at some of the coverage of the story.

He said: "I am somewhat frustrated at the characterisation that I've heard of this because I've heard a characterisation that 'the minister knew in August and nothing happened until November' and nothing could be further from the truth.

"The paper trail that you have and testimony that you have from my officials, from members of the National Pediatric Hospital Development board, from the HSE and indeed from my own mouth at this committee last week show that not to be the case."

Fianna Fáil: 'Not believable' that health minister didn't know about children's hospital cost over-runs

Latest: Fianna Fáil says it is "not believable" that the Health Minister would not have been made aware of cost over-runs at the National Children's Hospital for up to a year.

It is reported officials at the Department of Health discussed the issue as early as October 2017 - but Simon Harris says he was not made aware of the rising costs until August last year.

Fianna Fáil's finance spokesperson Michael McGrath said Minister Harris has "serious questions" to answer when he appears before an Oireachtas committee later.

He said: "I find it absolutely extraordinary and not believable that senior officials from the department of health would be sitting on a steering committee managing the largest capital project in the history of that department, that they would be aware for up to a year that the cost of the children's hospital was spiralling and they did not bring that to the minister."

Harris faces further questioning amid spiraling costs of National Children's Hospital

The Health Minister will face more questions today about the rising cost of the National Children's Hospital.

Simon Harris is due to appear before the Oireachtas Health Committee later to explain why it has risen to over €1.7bn.

The new terms of reference for the investigation say the review of the spiralling costs should be completed by March 29.

It will also aim to find accountability from key parties involved in managing the finances of the project.

It is after the initial investigation was told not to find individuals culpable.

Harris believes new children's hospital represents good value for money

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