€1.7bn national children's hospital may not be designed to deal with future pandemics  

€1.7bn national children's hospital may not be designed to deal with future pandemics  

Ahead of today's meeting of the PAC, Catherine Murphy TD raised concerns about the planning of the proposed hospital, and governance issues such as the minuting of meetings of the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board. 

Serious concerns have been raised as to whether the €1.7bn national children's hospital will meet the standards needed to care for patients during a future pandemic.

As far back as August of this year, the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board discussed "potential design modifications" that may be required to manage any future outbreaks such as the current Covid-19 pandemic.

The board is due to appear before the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee (PAC) today to answer questions around the cost overruns and delays to the expected completion dates.

PAC member Catherine Murphy has now raised fears that the hospital may not be "fit for purpose" when built, and the taxpayer could have to invest more in retrofitting the facility.

Social Democrats co-leader and PAC member Catherine Murphy said the national children's hospital ought to be designed to optimum standards rather than being expensively retrofitted. Picture: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie
Social Democrats co-leader and PAC member Catherine Murphy said the national children's hospital ought to be designed to optimum standards rather than being expensively retrofitted. Picture: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

Minutes of meetings revealed that over the summer "the board discussed the current design format of the project and its compatibility with future hospital designs to manage future pandemic type viruses".

"The Board discussed potential design modifications to take place post completion of the project."

However, they noted it would be some years before any industry guidance was available to provide certainty in this regard.

Ms Murphy said: "The last thing you want to be doing is building the hospital that's not fit for purpose.

"They are probably afraid to make modifications at this stage because the experience is that all that does is draw in additional costs."

The Social Democrats co-leader acknowledged there may not yet be full certainty about "what is the optimum" when it comes to fitting out hospitals to deal with future pandemics. However, she said the top standard should be adopted before the building is complete and not after: 

"Retrofitting something like that is going to be way more expensive than installing the optimum to begin with."

The minutes of meetings held in August, September, and October reveal that conciliation and the cost of the project were discussed, but little detail is given.

Ms Murphy said the details provided do not constitute minutes of a meeting.

"What if the whole board changed? If they did change, how are they to know what went on before, if you can't rely on the minutes to give you some sort of steer? And they are so cryptic you couldn't rely on them as a proper record."

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