No one asked to resign over rising cost of children’s hospital, Oireachtas committee told

No one asked to resign over rising cost of children’s hospital, Oireachtas committee told
Stephen Donnelly. Photo: Gareth Chaney/ Collins

No one has been asked to resign over the escalating cost of the new children’s hospital, a Department of Health official told an Oireachtas committee.

Assistant secretary of the department, Tracey Conroy, also told a meeting of the Oireachtas Health Committee that no one had been sanctioned about the spiralling €1.7bn bill.

Fianna Fail’s Health spokesman, Stephen Donnelly, said the most expensive hospital in the world was the Royal Adelaide Hospital in Australia.

And the most expensive hospital building project was the new Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden - the current cost stands at almost €2.1bn.

“But they are getting three times more hospital beds,” said Mr Donnelly.

He asked Ms Conroy if she thought that the price Irish people were paying for beds, compared to two of the most expensive hospitals ever built, represented a “catastrophic failure of management.”

Ms Conroy said a study showed that the cost per square metre for the new children's hospital was at a higher end but in line with similar projects.

She also referred to a HSE study with specialist internal input that found Dublin ranked second worldwide with regard to tender cost inflation.

Pressed by Mr Donnelly, Ms Conroy said she did not accept that the cost comparison with other expensive hospitals represented a catastrophic failure of management.

Deputy director of the HSE, Dean Sullivan, who also appeared before the committee, also rejected the charge made by Mr Donnelly.

Fianna Fáil’s Margaret Murphy O’Mahony compared the hospital costs to the popular television series Room to Improve where architect Dermot Bannon comes up with great ideas about house extensions and improvements.

“But he has a very able quantity surveyor with him who pulls him back from doing anything that was not originally agreed to,” she said.

Surely in a big plan like this there is someone in that role who should have said stop - this isn’t what was agreed to and to just to pull it in a bit.

Ms Murphy O’Mahony said a number of different capital projects were underway and she especially welcomed the development of a radiation oncology unit at Cork University Hospital.

Assistant secretary of the Department of Health, Colm Desmond, said the unit at CUH would be equipped, commissioned and become operational by the end of the year.

“That is the timeframe that is given at this point in time,” he said.

Meanwhile, Labour leader, Brendan Howlin, has called for an urgent Dáil inquiry into the escalating costs was needed.

He believed most people "genuinely aghast" that the project was now expected to cost over three times the original budget of €400m

The project needs to be completed, but with very clear, transparent costings, he said on RTÉ radio.

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