IT has been branded by a politician as “the most famous hospital in Ireland” — but not a brick has been laid.
A number of Oireachtas members, past and present, have all taken the credit for a proposal to replace Kenmare Community Hospital in Kerry.
The proposed new 40-bed unit was scheduled to cost in the region of €8.5 million.
But the Health Service Executive confirmed the project remains in limbo. Simply, the HSE has no funding available.
However, political rivals in south Kerry have fiercely insisted the hospital will be built.
Last week Senator Mark Daly, FF, who is one of a number claiming credit for the planned hospital, reiterated it was going ahead.
One of the region’s political dynasties — the Healy Raes running into three generations — have made several promises indicating they had secured a replacement hospital.
However, their claims were challenged by opponents such as ex-minister and former ceann comhairle, John O’Donoghue, who also claimed credit for the hospital — that has yet to be built.
County councillors in Kerry have now questioned the commitment of Health Minister Dr James Reilly to the project.
Cllr Michael Cahill, parliamentary assistant to Independent TD Tom Fleming, said: “This must be the most famous hospital in Ireland — It is going on so long and there is so much publicity surrounding it.”
Now the HSE South, in a report issued to Cllr Danny Healy-Rae, detailed how the tender had been accepted and planning approved, but the minister had still not signed off on the project.
“The capital plan is in the process of being finalised and is under consideration by the department and the Minister for Health,” the letter stated. “When the plan is approved the HSE South will appraise members of the forum of the projects included for development.”
Kenmare-based Senator Daly, meanwhile, said that although a contract was not in place the tender was legally binding and the HSE and the Department of Health could be sued if the hospital was not pursued.
“Due to a shortage of time before budget day it became clear a contract could not be put in place in time. Accordingly, I looked for other ways to ensure the HSE would be legally tied into proceeding with a new hospital,” the senator said as he outlined moves to get tender documents accepted.
“The current spending review will make recommendations to each minister. The projects that can be cut from the spending programme without incurring any costs to the department will be the first to be cut. Those projects that the HSE and Government have signed contracts for will have to process, or else the department will be sued and the taxpayer will have to pay millions of euro in compensation.
“Projects like Kenmare Hospital, which have legal agreements in place with the HSE, fall within this latter category and it would not make for good government policy to try and stop the building .... and pay millions in compensation to the contractors,” he said.
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