Speaking exclusively to the Irish Examiner, CEO Fergus Clancy said it was a “very significant step” for the hospital.
“It’s the first time we’ve opened a hospital other than the one in Eccles St, so we are very excited about this, it is a significant departure for us,” said Mr Clancy.
The opening of the Mater Private at Citygate in Mahon, outside Cork City, follows almost two years of talks with VHI, which refused cover to a previous hospital at the same site.
The €75m Cork Medical Centre, backed by Sheehan Medical Ltd, closed in Mar 2011, after less than six months, with the loss of 75 jobs and liabilities in excess of €5m.
VHI had argued there was excess capacity in the private hospital marketplace.
The Mater Private has circumvented this problem by reaching an agreement with Shanakiel Hospital in Cork to acquire its existing VHI contract, which provides cover for 44 beds and runs until the end of 2013. As part of the deal, Shanakiel will close and its staff and services will transfer to Citygate over Christmas. Shanakiel CEO Brian Martin will take over as general manager of the Mater Private.
It is understood the Shanakiel premises has been bought by developer John Cleary landlord of the Citygate site. His plans for the site are unknown, but it will not re-open as a hospital.
VHI confirmed yesterday that it had consented to a request from Shanakiel to a “proposed change of ownership and location of the hospital” which will not affect the cover agreement in place between the two.
VHI said Shanakiel is relocating to “a new, larger facility” and the deal to provide cover until the end of 2013 stands. However, VHI said it had “made it clear that no additional cover for beds or services will be provided for under the terms of the existing contract”.
VHI faces a multimillion-euro claim for damages from the liquidator of the original operators of the CMC. Yesterday, KPMG confirmed it is continuing their court proceedings against VHI on anti-competition grounds.
The new Mater Private will have 75 beds, and the expectation is those not covered by VHI will be covered by rival insurers.
A 70-strong workforce will be in place, in addition to consultants.
This will comprise nurses, support staff, and allied health professionals.
The building is being reaied for its opening and will include four operating theatres and high-end diagnostics, including MRI and CT and a cardiac catheter laboratory.