Children’s Hospital: Private rooms to be included due to ‘existing contracts’

Non-public facilities will be at ‘very low level’, Minister Bruton says

The national children’s hospital has to provide some private facilities because of existing contracts with consultants, the Dáil has been told.

Eight private out-patient consulting rooms will be part of the €1.7 billion project currently under construction, Minister for Communications Richard Bruton said.

He insisted that the private provision of care “is not a major element of this project” and “going to be at a very low level”.

Mr Bruton said there had to be some provision because of “outstanding and in place contracts for consultants, type B contracts, that allow for on-site private practice of up to 20 per cent”.


The new building “had to include some out-patient department consulting facilities in the form of a private out-patient clinic which is eight outpatient consulting rooms”.

He stressed it “is not a major element of this project”.

The Minister was responding to Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty who described the national children's hospital as a "runaway train" with the public's money still being spent on the project at an unwarranted level.

He said the Government was failing to get a grip on runaway projects. Mistakes were continually being made in the children’s hospital. “What people question is why are there private units within a public hospital”.

They were asking why the cost overruns had now escalated further with the contractor making additional claims and an extra €10 million a month in costs for every month that the project is delayed.

He asked why the contract was signed off on when the contractor could claim for additional cost if inflation ran over 4.4 per cent “when we know inflation it is 7.5 per cent?”

Other projects

Mr Doherty asked what other projects would be delayed or cut as communities were really concerned about the impact on commitments made to fund other projects including the paediatric unit at Cork University Hospital, the new MRI scan for the Regional Hospital in Mullingar and the second Cath lab in Waterford.

Mr Bruton said that no project of this scale was risk free. He said mistakes had been made early on and this was acknowledged. “There was no attempt to spin this.”

A new approach is being adopted included the appointment of a new development board and the head of the board Fred Barry had fully answered all questions at the Oireachtas committee on Wednesday.

“One of the issues in the contract was that if there was construction inflation beyond a certain figure the State shared some of that risk. Nobody concealed that,” he said.

But he said Mr Barry suggested that “there are many opportunities over the lifetime of the project to mitigate these delays” and the Minister stressed that “there is no evidence anywhere that it could be done cheaper than it is”.

“Any overruns that have to be paid by the State will only be paid after full audit due diligence is applied,” he said, adding that “we have to manage that contract tightly”.

He reminded the House that the project would provide state of the art care for very sick children and their families and paediatric treatment at the satellite centre in Blanchardstown would start in July.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times