Developer met children's hospital chief on site move


PROPERTY DEVELOPER Noel Smyth has said the chairman of the board established to design and build the national children’s hospital at Dublin’s Mater hospital discussed with him the possibility of building the hospital on an alternative site in recent weeks.

He said he was waiting for the go-ahead to give a presentation to the board of the new national children’s hospital on how the hospital could be built for less on a site close to the M50, when he was informed the board’s chairman Philip Lynch was resigning.

Mr Lynch resigned last week and since then there has been much speculation on the reasons for his decision. It is understood he was concerned about a funding shortage for the €650 million hospital planned for the Mater site and raised the possibility with Minister for Health Mary Harney of building it for less at a different location. However, Ms Harney was not willing to reopen the debate on where the facility would be built and he resigned.

Mr Lynch has not commented on reasons for his resignation and Ms Harney has said she would not be commenting either. It would not be “helpful”, she said, adding she wanted to see the new hospital built as quickly as possible.

Chief executive of the national children’s hospital development board, Eilish Hardiman, also refused to be drawn on the reasons for Mr Lynch’s resignation on Tuesday, claiming she was not privy to that information.

Mr Smyth said that Mr Lynch had made contact with his team in August after reading a letter in The Irish Timesfrom his project director saying the hospital could be built for €150 million less than was planned. That letter was published in response to an article by the late Maurice Neligan in The Irish Times’HEALTHplus supplement in which he indicated he had changed his mind about the suitability of the Mater site for the new children’s hospital.

Mr Smyth said he met Mr Lynch on the Naas Road, close to where he was proposing the hospital be built, about two weeks before Mr Lynch resigned. He said Mr Lynch asked him to draft a letter on what he was proposing and when he submitted this he was asked to elaborate further in a second letter, which he did. I was waiting for him to come back to me regarding our team putting our proposals to his board in terms of the design, planning and financing of the hospital when I got a call last Thursday evening to say he had resigned,” he said.

Asked how he felt now about Mr Lynch’s resignation he said:“. . . I’m very disappointed that he’s gone . . . to lose somebody like him at the helm is a huge loss.”

Ms Harney has appointed businessman John Gallagher as his replacement and the board has begun to engage with An Bord Pleanála about obtaining permission for the hospital. If it succeeds the board says the hospital will open in 2015.

However, parents and medics in the New Children’s Hospital Alliance continues to object to the siting of the hospital at the Mater. They have concerns about the size and accessibility of the site.

Earlier this week it was confirmed that under current proposals, €110 million of the €650 million to build the hospital will have to come from fundraising and philanthropy, but none of this money has yet been raised. It was also confirmed that the €650 million does not include information and communication technology, which could cost more than €100 million. The hospital development board said this would come from the HSE’s budget. “The costs for applications are under discussion with the HSE and are not finalised at present as several of the required applications such as laboratory and imaging (X-ray) systems are included in the HSE’s ICT programme to implement these systems in their existing national roll-out programme,” a board spokesman said.