Varadkar warns of not being able to equip new hospital

‘No provision’ to increase number of care beds for older patients, says Varadkar

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has said the Government has enough money to build the new national children’s hospital but not to equip it. Photograph: Cyril Byrne /The Irish Times

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has said the Government has enough money to build the new national children’s hospital but not to equip it. Photograph: Cyril Byrne /The Irish Times

 

The Government has enough money to build the new national children’s hospital but not to equip it, according to Minister for Health Leo Varadkar.

Mr Varadkar told Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin there was “no provision” to equip the children’s hospital with IT or to increase the number of care beds for older patients in the health service, in line with the ageing of the population.

The admission appears in a letter sent by Mr Varadkar to Mr Howlin last August, before the budget, in relation to ongoing reviews of current and capital spending.

Capital budget

Asked whether he now had money to equip the hospital, Mr Varadkar’s spokesman said his capital budget was increased by €70 million in 2015 and 2016 in the budget and “if this carries through to future years, we will have no difficulty fully equipping the hospital”.

However, he also confirmed this money was the first two tranches of the €200 million separately committed by the Government for the children’s hospital last year from the proceeds of selling the National Lottery.

This money cannot be spent on the hospital in 2016 as construction will only be getting under way so the Department of Health, rather than leaving it unspent, wants to use much of it on building primary care centres and nursing units.

This requires the approval of the Department of Public Expenditure, which, Mr Varadkar’s spokesman conceded, had “different notions” on the issue.

In the letter, Mr Varadkar puts the cost of equipping the children’s hospital with IT at €55-€80 million and said there was no provision for this.

“As things stand, we can afford to build the new children’s hospital but not to equip it.

“We need to continually increase the number of care beds for our seniors in line with their rising numbers. At present, this is not happening and we do not have provision in the current capital envelope to do so.”

Adverse effects

Mr Varadkar also warned a 10 per cent cut in his capital budget would have serious adverse effects and force the Government to drop one of its major projects.

“If it is decided to cancel the new children’s hospital, new National Maternity Hospital or Central Mental Hospital, we should do so sooner rather than later so no more money is spent on planning or design.”