Failure of Mater site would mean €50m waste of public funds


SUCCESSIVE GOVERNMENTS have spent almost €50 million developing a children’s hospital at the Mater site in Dublin, which is now thought unlikely to be selected as the location for the project, according to new figures.

The selection of a site at St James’s Hospital in the city or Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown, will mean all of this public expenditure has been wasted. None of the project development work done for the Mater site is transferrable to another location. The sum includes €33 million spent by the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board, which submitted the failed planning application for the Mater site. Another €16 million was spent on earlier plans to move Temple Street children’s hospital to the Mater campus.

The €33 million figure includes €20.1 million spent on the board’s “business services team”, €2.6 million on the “project management services team” and €5 million on the “integrated design team”, according to Minister for Health James Reilly.

The balance of €5.3 million related to establishing and staffing a central project office. These costs included “executive costs” of €1.6 million, planning-related expenditure of €1.5 million and €100,000 on fees for board members, Dr Reilly told Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins.

The Cabinet is expected to decide next Tuesday on the hospital’s location after being briefed by Dr Reilly. He is expected to recommend St James’s after a review group found it performed best on medical criteria.

Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar said there was no substantive discussion of the hospital at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting. “Most ministers haven’t yet seen the Dolphin Report or the memo but we will see that in advance of the Cabinet meeting at which the decision will be made, which will either be next week or the week after,” he said.

The report found that Connolly and a site at the Coombe women’s hospital both offered more potential for future planning, as they had very large areas.

Meanwhile, consultants from Dublin’s largest children’s hospital, Our Lady’s in Crumlin, have called for the new children’s hospital to be linked to a maternity hospital. In a letter to The Irish Times, 40 consultants express a preference for siting the project near the Coombe. If it is in St James’s or the Coombe, they say, it ought to be “physically attached to the Coombe by a short link corridor”.