Minister wants work on children's hospital to begin quickly


MINISTER FOR Health James Reilly said he wants work on a new children’s hospital to get under way as quickly as possible after receiving the final report of a review group into potential sites.

The unpublished report has assessed the strengths and weaknesses of various locations around the capital, rather than recommending any single site over another.

The Government will examine the 70-page report and the Cabinet is due to make a decision within a few weeks.

“What I want to ensure is that we get the best result, but I also want to make sure we have it as quickly as possible, in the life of this Government,” Mr Reilly said yesterday.

“We want the best environment for children to get the best treatment in. They deserve no less.”

The review group, which received 30 site offers and met 21 different groups, was charged with assessing options based on a range of factors such as cost, the speed at which projects could be delivered and how they fitted with Government policy on delivery of health services.

The group was established by the Minister following An Bord Pleanála’s refusal to grant planning permission for plans to build the children’s hospital on the site of the Mater hospital in Dublin.

Despite the volume of submissions, many observers still believe a revised version of plans for the Mater is the most likely to be chosen.

Supporters of the Mater’s bid say it would be delivered by 2016 because a new application for planning permission could be lodged within four months. However, this claim has been repeated by the backers of rival bids over recent weeks.

Mr Reilly yesterday said the Government would need to carefully digest the contents of the review group’s report before making a decision.

“This is going to be one of the biggest projects which the Government will be engaged in during the course of its life,” he said. “It is something which will stand to us for 100 or 200 years.”

The review group was initially tasked with producing a report within 56 days. This was extended by a further 14 days because of the number of submissions received.

Group chairman Dr Frank Dolphin said he looked forward to the outcome of the Government’s consideration of the report.

“With the combined clinical, technical, planning and managerial expertise on the group, the options available have been thoroughly examined within our terms of reference,” he said.

“We recognise that this is a hugely important decision and there is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to get it right . . . The group will be available to brief the Government on any aspects of the report should that be required.”

In a separate development, the Minister warned that the health authorities would need to tackle overspending in health by addressing issues such as overtime, premium pay and allowances. Latest figures show the HSE has overspent by around €140 million so far this year.

“I’m not prepared to tolerate this situation on an ongoing basis. Transparency, accountability and fairness: that’s the root of what we’re at. Some 70 per cent of the budget is going on pay, and it’s up to 85 per cent in some community services,” he told reporters.

“We spent €800 million on overtime, premium pay and allowances last year. This is an area that has to be addressed. It’s the elephant in the room. We cannot cut services to patients and ignore this other aspect of the budget.”