Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin has insisted that finance will be available to fully equip and staff the National Children's Hospital when it is built.
A letter sent by Minister for Health Leo Vardakar to Mr Howlin during the budget planning process states that there is "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.
In relation to capital funding, he wrote that the cost of equipping the children’s hospital with IT was €55 million-€80 million but there was no provision for this. “As things stand, we can afford to build the new children’s hospital but not to equip it.”
In last month's budget, Mr Varadkar announced a €68 million a year increase in the capital budget for health from 2016. However, he made no reference to the €200 million from the sale of the National Lottery the Government has separately committed to building the children's hospital.
His spokesman denied all the extra money was National Lottery money but admitted Mr Varadkar’s department and the Department of Public Expenditure had “different notions” on the issue.
Asked about the matter as he arrived at Government buildings this morning, Mr Howlin said: “I can assure you that it is an absolute imperative of Government not only to build the national children’s hospital but also to fully equip it and fully staff it.”
He added: “It will be several years before we are in a position to equip it. We haven’t started to build it yet and I can assure you and the public it will be fully equipped and fully staffed when we get it up and running and I hope that will start during the course of 2015.”
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."