Tánaiste defends spiralling cost of new children’s hospital

Fitzgerald comes under pressure in Dáil over ‘mind-boggling figures’ estimated at €1bn

An artist’s impression of what the national children’s hospital will look like. Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald said Finland, a comparable jurisdiction, was building a hospital for half the cost.

An artist’s impression of what the national children’s hospital will look like. Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald said Finland, a comparable jurisdiction, was building a hospital for half the cost.

 

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald has defended the spiralling costs of the new children’s hospital, now estimated at €1 billion and described as the most expensive children’s hospital to be built anywhere in the world.

Ms Fitzgerald said the original cost estimate for the new hospital did not take account of the increased building inflation costs, the development of a new education research centre or information technology provision.

These were among “extra facilities” that were not included in the original costs. Insisting funding would be provided, she said “there will also be input from philanthropy”.

The Tánaiste told the Dáil: “We will have a hospital in the next couple of years.”

And she compared the cost with other public infrastructure developments.

“Many of our major projects have had cost overruns. Take Terminal 2 at Dublin Airport. There was a lot of discussion about the site, about the building, about the cost. It’s now there, nobody is questioning it.”

Ms Fitzgerald emphasised the trebling of construction inflation from 3 per cent to 9 per cent as a main factor in the rise and said a new education research centre was being developed and the provision of IT for the hospital had to be taken into account.

‘Out of control’

Moreover, she said Minister for Health Simon Harris would bring an amended memorandum to Government in relation to the costs.

The Tánaiste cited the original estimate as €650 million, the cost in 2015, and not €404 million, the estimate in 2012 and said that was the core building cost.

Ms Fitzgerald was responding in the Dáil to Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald who said costs were so far out of control that they had ballooned from €404 million in 2012 to “mind-boggling figures of over €1 billion today”.

Ms McDonald described the costs as “outrageous and unaccountable”.

Condemning Fine Gael for spending the past fortnight “gazing at your own navel, indulging your obsession with who might be your new leader”, she said “Fine Gael and your Government is utterly bereft of any leaders”.

She claimed “the abject failure to get a handle on the costs of the children’s hospital and to allay fears of parents is proof positive of that”.

The Dublin Central TD said the hospital was first proposed in 1993 and is “still a project wrapped in uncertainty and chaos”.

Expensive

But Ms Fitzgerald said that after decades of discussion the Government was building the hospital. It had made the decision.

“It has ensured that a world-class designed, child-friendly, high-spec proper hospital for our children is going to be completed.”

The new children’s hospital and satellite centres will include a research-intensive academic healthcare institution, the Minister added.

But Ms McDonald asked if the Tánaiste was happy that it was going to be the most expensive children’s hospital in the world.

The Sinn Féin deputy leader said Finland, a comparable jurisdiction, was building a hospital for half the cost.

But stressing the rise in construction inflation, Ms Fitzgerald also said there was always going to be extra costs on top of the core building expense.

She said the building would be completed and work had already begun.