Government to spend €3 billion on hospitals and health projects

Varadkar hopes work will begin on four new national hospitals within a year

The Government is to spend more than €3 billion over the next six years on building new hospitals, developing community nursing units for older people and constructing primary care centres under its new capital programme.

Minster for Health Leo Varadkar said the new funding meant that, subject to planning permission, work would begin within the next year on four new national hospitals.

He said these were the new national children’s hospital at St James’s Hospital, the national rehabilitation hospital in Dún Laoghaire, the new national maternity hospital at St Vincent’s hospital and the new forensic mental health campus in Portrane in north county Dublin.

He said the new capital funding would permit work to progress on other programmes such as the national radiation oncology project with developments in Cork, Galway and Beaumont, up to an additional 80 primary care centres all over the country, and the replacement of community nursing units and disability accommodation.

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The Minister said there would also be a major investment in information technology across the health service.

Coombe maternity hospital

He said funding was being provided to carry out planning and design and to begin construction on the transfer of the existing Coombe maternity hospital to St James’s and the

Rotunda Hospital

to Blanchardstown.

He said the Limerick maternity hospital would also be co-located on the University of Limerick Hospital campus.

Mr Varadkar said it was expected work on the new children's hospital, the rehabilitation hospital, the national maternity hospital and the forensic mental health service campus would get under way next year and for it to be completed before the expiry of the capital plan in 2021. He also said construction of the new maternity centre at the Connolly Hospital site in Blanchardstown – to replace the Rotunda – and the maternity unit in Limerick would get under way in this period.

St James’s campus

However, he said the replacement of the Coombe hospital on the St James’s campus could take slightly longer as work could not begin until construction of the children’s hospital was completed.

Minister of State at the Department of Health Kathleen Lynch said two of the hospital projects, the national rehabilitation hospital and the forensic mental health service campus had planning permission.

Mr Varadkar said he was confident planning permission for the new national maternity hospital at St Vincent's could be sought by the end of the year. Work had been put on hold earlier this year after a dispute emerged between St Vincent's and the existing National Maternity Hospital and the HSE over management and governance issues.

Ms Lynch said there were facilities in relation to older people that would need to be replaced while many others would need reconfiguration.

She said the additional money in the plan would allow for much of that work.

She said new forensic mental health units would be established outside Dublin for the first time. She said a lot of parents and friends of patients in the Central Mental Hospital were anxious they could be treated and cared for nearer their own homes.

Mr Varadkar said a lot of the country’s healthcare infrastructure was very old.

He said 200 years of infrastructure could not be replaced in six years but the new capital plan would allow for a very good start to be made.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent