Explainer: turmoil at the National Children’s Hospital

Catherine Gallagher

Image Credit: Wikipedia

The National Paediatric Hospital Development Board (NPHBD), which is responsible for the development of the National Children’s Hospital, has seen three of its board chairs resign within the past 12 years.

A single, tertiary children’s hospital in Dublin was initially proposed by the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland in 1993.

Following the publication of the McKinsey report in 2006, which recommended a single national children’s hospital, a HSE task force initially picked the Mater campus as the site of the development.

A year later, the then Minister for Health Mary Harney subsequently established the NPHDB.

Its first board chair Philip Lynch resigned in 2010, his successor John Gallagher resigned five months later. Earlier this year, Tom Costello became the third chair of NPHDB to follow suit.

An Bord Pleanála rejected planning permission in 2012 for the development on the Mater campus on the grounds it would “constitute overdevelopment.”

At this point, €35 million worth of expenditure was consequently written off.

After considerable delay, An Bord Pleanála finally granted planning permission in 2016 for the construction of the hospital on the grounds of St James’s Hospital.

Within a year, the Government approved a budget of €983 million in April of 2017. By late August of 2018, both the Department of Health and Minister for Health Simon Harris were made aware of concerns that costs were to go up by €200 million.

Last month, the Health Committee hearing on the cost overruns heard that the build will cost €1.433 billion, €450 million more than the figure originally granted in 2017. Since then, the figure has shot up to €1.7 billion.

However, the cost escalation was only highlighted to the Taoiseach Leo Varadakr at a meeting with the Department of Health and officials from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on November 9th.

Harris told the Health Committee he made the decision to continue with the project amid the spiralling costs because “it’s so badly needed.” He added that he had three options available to him; to pause, render or continue with the undertaking.

Appearing before an Oireachtas committee on February 5th, Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe said it would have been “helpful” to have been kept updated with the development of the cost overruns.

The Taoiseach has confirmed that the Department of Health has secured PWC, an expert accountancy and consultancy firm to undertake an analysis of the situation. It is believed the review will be completed in March.

Catherine Gallagher

Image Credit: Wikipedia