€40m rent bill as HSE sites lie vacant

More than 140 HSE properties around the country are lying idle at a time when the executive is paying €40m annually renting space.

€40m rent bill as HSE sites lie vacant

Some of the properties have been empty for over a decade, including St Kevin’s Hospital, in Shanakiel, Cork City, a listed property which has been vacant since 2003.

Last year the HSE spent almost €7,000 on security at the site St Kevin’s shares with the former Our Lady’s Hospital complex.

Another on the list for more than 10 years is St Senán’s Hospital in Foynes, Co Limerick.

St Senán’s was identified in 2009 by Murray O’Laoire Architects as a building that did “not contribute” to Foynes and they advised the HSE “should plant native species... to screen it from the town”. The former hospital is up for sale.

Also making the list of “properties in transition” is Heatherside Hospital in Buttevant, which closed two years ago, and the former Dingle Community Hospital in Kerry, vacated by patients in 2010. Both are deemed “surplus to requirements” by the HSE.

Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher said there was a need for an independent review of the HSE property portfolio.

“Leaving buildings idle and derelict, and spending considerable money on security, when the HSE is under budgetary pressure to maintain frontline services, makes no sense,” said Mr Kelleher.

“Some of these buildings are landmark buildings, architecturally very fine, and if the HSE has no use for them, they should be put on the market.”

When asked to quantify the market value of the vacant properties, the HSE said it did not have a figure and that evaluations were carried out only on properties that are due to be sold.

However, even these figures were unavailable on the basis that they are “market-sensitive and are not published by the HSE in advance of the disposal”.

The HSE did provide figures for the amounts realised from the disposal of properties between 2010 and 2012. These included:

*2010: €3,517,440 for five properties or parcels of land;

*2011: €6,445,426 for 17 properties or parcels of land;

*2012: €4,873,058 for 17 properties or parcels of land.

The income from property and land disposal in 2011 is just over one sixth of the figure spent on building and land rentals in the same year.

The rental figure for 2011 was, according to the HSE annual report, €37.9m, up €5.4m on 2010.

The HSE said its vacant properties were either:

*Being disposed of;

*Had been refurbished and were at commissioning stage;

*Have been vacated by services as part of a service strategy;

*Are the subject of a re-utilisation review or of a development plan review.

The HSE also said the properties “represent a snapshot in time and the list changes over time”.

Figures from the 2011 annual report show the vast HSE estate comprises about 2,655 properties, of which 1,666 are owned by the HSE and 989 are leased.

Of these, 2,559 are used for the delivery of health and personal social services and 96 for administration and support services.

€7k security

*The HSE is spending €7,000 on security at a hospital which has been lying idle for more than 10 years.

In a statement the HSE said: “A review of security at the property identified that foot patrols by security staff were considered too dangerous, due to the isolated dispersed nature of the property.

“Motorised security patrols combined with physical security measures [e.g. security shutters] which are now in operation are considered more effective, in securing the property, and safer for security staff.

“The cost of security for the Our Lady’s [Hospital, Cork] site for 2012 was approx €7,000.”

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