Coveney pledges Waterford cath lab to go ahead despite children’s hospital overrun

‘No decision has been made on how we are funding the €50m needed for 2019’ says HSE

 Simon Coveney: “The Minister for Health has made it very clear that he is committed to the second cath lab in Waterford.”  Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Simon Coveney: “The Minister for Health has made it very clear that he is committed to the second cath lab in Waterford.” Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

The Tánaiste Simon Coveney has pledged in the Dáil that a second cath lab in Waterford will be given the go-ahead despite fears that it could be one of the projects that is delayed because of cost overruns at the National Children’s Hospital.

Earlier, a row broke out at the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee on Thursday over capital projects which might potentially be delayed because of the escalation in the cost of building the hospital.

Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane was told by the HSE that the future of a second cath lab in Waterford – a key demand of Independent Alliance Minister John Halligan – was “under consideration”.

Mr Cullinane asked health officials if any decision had been made on what projects will suffer as a result of the overspend. The Department of Health must find €50 million as a result.

“No decision has been made on how we are funding the €50m needed for 2019,” said the HSE’s head of estates Jim Curran.

He confirmed it is possible that some capital projects will not go ahead when they were supposed to.

Mr Cullinane asked if the second cath lab in Waterford was given the green light, or if it was one of the projects now under consideration.

“It is one of the projects under consideration,” Mr Curran said.

The Tánaiste Simon Coveney later pledged in the Dáil, however, that the project will go ahead. He said, “The Minister for Health has made it very clear that he is committed to the second cath lab in Waterford. It is part of the service plan for 2019.”

The Secretary General of the Department of Health Jim Breslin had earlier told the committee that there will be two stages to the process of examining the capital projects.

The department will look to see which projects have existing contractual obligations, and will then look to see which projects are the major priorities.

“The Minister will say to the HSE what those priorities are, and to make sure the top priorities are delivered. We will be looking at all the priorities to make sure as many can go ahead [as possible].”

Meanwhile John Pollock, the project director of the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board, told the committee that the February 2014 figure of €800 million for the project was an “early stage cost estimate prior to appointment of a design team in August 2014, using floor areas from the outline design brief and using 2013 construction rates which it is estimated will have virtually doubled by 2022 following a decade of construction tender inflation.”

After this, a figure of €983 million was arrived at in February 2017. At this stage the “actual quantity of materials” which was needed was confirmed before the cost again rose to €1.433 billion in 2018.

Mr Pollock said the board was “deeply disappointed that costs have increased so significantly and acknowledge the challenges these pose.”

Mr Breslin said he takes the situation “extremely seriously and regrets the very significant increase in public funds.”

The Government decided last December to proceed with the second phase of the project – the construction of the hospital – in the face of the major escalation of cost as this was judged to be “the least-worst option for the delivery of this priority project”.