Options are limited for raising funds for children’s hospital

State may sell off the name of the flagship building

Runaway costs: the project aims to raise €150 million through philanthropy to help fund building the hospital

Runaway costs: the project aims to raise €150 million through philanthropy to help fund building the hospital

 

The possibility of the Government developing “sales criteria” to sell off the name of the new national children’s hospital, as floated in a Cabinet memo, may prove as unavoidable as it is incongruous.

The naming of parts of the State’s flagship building project after a powerful commercial organisation or a wealthy business person is a distinct reality, given the massive cost overrun at the project.

The project team developing the facility at St James’s Hospital spent €40,000 last year coming up with Phoenix Children’s Hospital Ireland, a name that was supposed to “symbolise the birth of new opportunities”.

That idea, chosen from 300 proposals, was firmly knocked on the head after an adverse public reaction and the threat of legal action from a similarly named hospital in Arizona. There has been no official take-up either for a proposal, backed by thousands of signatures, to name the facility after Dr Kathleen Lynn, a 1916 leader and the founder of the first children’s hospital in Ireland.

The much-delayed project was supposed to have been open in time for the 100th anniversary of the Rising, but that centenary will be a distant memory when the hospital finally gets going in late 2022. Commercial realities will not have gone away, however.

The €1.4 billion price tag now attached to it means efforts will have to be made to offset costs by whatever means possible. The Department of Health’s memo to Cabinet last week shows some thinking has gone into this but the options are limited.

Name change

It cites the large sums – about €50 million – raised by two US children’s hospital after they agreed to change their names to include that of their sponsors.

Closer to home, Aviva paid about €40 million in 2009 for the naming rights of Lansdowne Road, while mobile phone company Three’s deal with the old Point Theatre is worth an estimated €55 million over 10 years.

Whether a children’s hospital can have its name sold off in the same way as a sport stadium or music venue is doubtful, and the memo notes Minister for Health Simon Harris saying that confining naming rights to areas in the hospital would be “more acceptable”.

A taste of what might be to come is evident from the one commercial arrangement already in place at the new hospital. Ronald McDonald House – the charitable arm of the McDonalds fast-food chain – is providing parents’ accommodation in a 53-bed block at the new hospital, an arrangement that has been criticised as inappropriate by the HSE’s own anti-obesity leader.

Philanthropy

The Department has looked at options for “descoping” (reducing) the project to save money, but found they were “very limited” with savings of just €79 million. Such an exercise would also leave the new hospital with fewer beds than the existing three children’s hospitals.

The project aims to raise €150 million through philanthropy to help fund building the hospital; €20 million of this has already been committed, according to the memo.

The three existing children’s hospitals in Dublin, whose fundraising efforts are to be amalgamated from next year, currently raise just €20 million annually between them.

Some €47 million in commercial income is also forecast to help offset the rising costs of the project, but the HSE will have to provide this money if it is not received in advance.

Less than €1 million will be available for the children’s hospital from a fund set up for victims of child abuse in residential institutions. Separately, the Presentation Brothers are making a donation of €1 million.

An estimated €22 million will be raised for the project through the sale of Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin.