HSE chief confirms children’s hospital overspend could impact future projects

Paul Reid appears before PAC says if projects affected it’s likely to be those slated for 2020-21

A view of the construction site of The National Children’s Hospital. File photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times

A view of the construction site of The National Children’s Hospital. File photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times

 

Jack Horgan-Jones

The head of the Health Service Executive (HSE) has confirmed the overspend on the national children’s hospital project could have an impact on the service’s spending plans in the coming years.

Paul Reid, CEO of the HSE, told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Thursday morning that the health service is in discussions with the Department of Health and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform regarding publication of its capital plan and the potential impact of the cost overruns at the children’s hospital project.

“If at the end of this, there’s a significant contribution beyond what we planned, there would be an implication in terms of projects,” Mr Reid told Sinn Féin TD Jonathan O’Brien. “The outcome of the discussions will clearly determine for us if we have to curtail any projects,” he said, adding that at this point, the HSE has not had to stop working on any projects.

He said that any projects affected would more likely be those slated for 2020 and 2021, rather than projects this year. As reported by The Irish Times Thursday morning, the HSEhas in recent weeks raised concerns that overruns and issues related to the timing of funding for large scale projects will make it almost impossible to deliver planned multibillion-euro investments in new healthcare facilities .

In a letter to the secretary general of the Department of Health on May 3rd, then acting director general of the HSE flagged her concerns about the impact of the overrun, saying that “the additional impact now of the national children’s hospital over the years 2020/2021/2022 has made what was a very difficult situation almost impossible”.

Jim Breslin, secretary general of the Department of Health, said that the additional €200 million provided for the children’s hosptial and the National Broadband Plan in this week’s summer economic statement would improve the funding pressure on parts of the health service.

The capital plan is expected to be published in “the coming weeks”, Mr Reid said. It was due for publication in January of this year.

In the first three months of this year, the HSE recorded a total overrun of more than €103 million, following a deficit of €600 million last year and a record level of funding allocated in 2019. Mr Reid said that he was holding a series of meetings with senior officials examining spending, pressures on services and forecasted outcome. He insisted that there were no cuts to services on the table.

“There’s no cuts planned. It’s setting out to deliver against the budget that has been allocated,” he said. Asked by Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry if there was likely to be a supplementary budget, as there has been in recent years, Mr Reid said he was not planning for it. Mr Breslin added “nobody’s planning for that, in fact we are planning for the opposite . . we have to break the cycle of supplementary estimates”.