Harney sparks row over children’s hospital

A BITTER row has broken out between Health Minister Mary Harney and former chief of the National Paediatric Hospital Philip Lynch over the reasons for his resignation.

In a statement described as a “bombshell” to the €650 million plan, the ex-chairman of the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board (NPHDB) said he could not stay with the project while significant issues remained un-addressed.

Mr Lynch, who left the post on October 5, said funding and planning issues for the new hospital – which will amalgamate the existing children’s hospitals and is controversially due to be built at the Mater hospital by 2015 – were central to his resignation.

However, Ms Harney contradicted Mr Lynch’s statement, saying that she asked him to leave.

She added that “the funding mechanism for the new hospital was set out at the commencement of the project” and that it was not the remit of those involved in the plan to change the hospital’s location.

Mr Lynch said despite informing the minister the issues posed a serious risk to the planned hospital, he said the senior cabinet official’s view continues to differ from his own.

“Throughout my term as chairman, my sole objective was to secure the delivery of a world-class children’s hospital.

“In my letter of resignation, I stated that there were fundamental differences between the minister and myself on the need for open and informed discussion at board level at all times on a range of substantive issues relating to the NPHDB.”

Among these issues are:

A €200 million funding gaps for the Mater site plan.

Ambulance and urgent care development at the rejected Tallaght hospital site.

Governance issues.

Stakeholder communication.

Planning and design challenges for the Mater site.

“It is my opinion that if the above issues are not addressed, the successful delivery of the new hospital, wherever it is located, is at serious risk,” he warned.

Labour health spokes-woman Jan O’Sullivan said the comments were a “bombshell” which “casts a huge cloud of doubt over the future of the hospital”.

The comment was echoed by Fine Gael’s James Reilly.

“We have a 440-bed project which is costing €650m when the standard cost is €1m a bed. The numbers never seemed to add up but Philip Lynch’s statement has cast grave doubt on their credibility. There is an offer on the table from Noel Smyth [to build on a different site] which deserves consideration.

“We don’t serve our children well by telling them fairytales about a hospital that may never be built.”

The New Crumlin Hospital Group, set up by parents lobbying for a new children’s facility, said the row “should in no way be used as an excuse to delay” the project.

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