The HSE was forced to “very substantially” change its capital plan for this year, because of the national children’s hospital costs crisis, officials have confirmed. On February 5, the officials held a meeting on what projects to delay, cancel, or change.
Last month, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe insisted that despite the potential €1bn children’s hospital budget overrun, no services would be scrapped. That claim was widely questioned. Mr Donohoe said that while this year’s Government capital plan would be reduced by €99m — including €24m from “small capital projects and repairs” in hospitals — this involved “re-profiling” and not cuts.
However, while Taoiseach Leo Varadkar also insisted services would not be affected, the issue is likely to be called into question again, after the HSE confirmed it has been forced to “very significantly” revise its capital plan. In a Freedom of Information Act response to the Irish Examiner, the HSE confirmed its strategic planning team met on February 5 to discuss the implications of the hospital overrun.
In a pre-meeting email to those attending on January 31, HSE national director of strategic planning and transformation, Dr Stephanie O’Keeffe, said:
“This issue at the national children’s hospital will have a very significant impact on our plan, with €50m [subsequently reduced to €24m] required to be identified from within existing projects in 2019, and €100m in each of the following years. There is a need for us to provide clarity on the implications.”
During the February 5 meeting, the officials examined a document linked to the cuts that may take place, which the HSE has declined to release.
A HSE spokesperson said: “A meeting took place on February 5 to discuss the impact of the additional funding requirements for the national children’s hospital on the HSE capital plan. The main purpose of the meeting was to give direction to HSE Estates, who are responsible for preparing the capital plan. The document presented to the meeting was an initial draft capital plan and has since been substantially revised.
“The HSE’s capital plan is currently being finalised by the HSE and will be published following approval by the Minister for Health.”