Two new elective care centres in Cork and Galway which will deliver some 355,000 extra hospital procedures per year could cost up to a combined €1.5 billion under current estimates.
While the Government approved the preferred sites for the two hospitals at Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting, it could be three years before contracts for construction are signed.
The sites, now recommended to be brought forward into the planning phase, are at St Stephen’s Hospital, Sarsfield Court in Cork and Merlin Park in Galway.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said the development of the elective hospitals “represents a major change in how we’ll deliver quality care based on future demand”.
“By separating elective [scheduled] from emergency [unscheduled] care, we will be able to deliver better care and outcomes for all patients,” he said.
The Cork centre – with nine planned theatres, seven endoscopy suites and nine minor operation rooms – is expected to provide 180,000 extra procedures, treatments and diagnostic appointments per year.
An extra 175,000 procedures per year are to be carried out in Galway, where there will be eight operating theatres, seven endoscopy suites and nine minor operation rooms.
Under the Government’s strategy for elective care announced last year, it is hoped that three hospitals will ultimately cater for up to 940,000 procedures per year in a bid to reduce waiting lists for surgery and other care and scans.
A third hospital is planned in Dublin, but this project is running behind the other two.
A Government statement said an announcement on the Dublin project will follow once its associated business case has been approved, and the aim is for this to happen “as early as possible in the new year”.
The elective hospitals will be focused on providing day case care, endoscopy, minor operations, outpatient treatment and outpatient diagnostics services.
The statement said it is too early to to give precise costs as the hospitals are yet to go through the planning and procurement phases.
An indicative estimated range for the hospital in Cork is between €614 million and €828 million. The Galway estimate is between €516 million and €695 million.
The Government statement outlined how the hospitals will go through the various stages of the Public Spending Code (PSC), designed to ensure value for money.
Subject to the necessary approvals during the PSC process – and affordability within the National Development Plan (NDP) budget – contracts for construction are currently expected to be signed off on by the end of 2025.
Mr Donnelly said he is keen that the hospitals will be up and running as soon as possible, and he will work with Government colleagues “to consider options to expedite their delivery wherever possible”.
He said the Health Service Executive is progressing plans for surgical hubs which can quickly deliver elective care in Cork, Galway, Limerick, Waterford and Dublin at a cost of between €90 million and €100 million.
They will be modelled on the very successful Reeves Centre at Tallaght University Hospital.
It is intended they will be operational in 12 to 18 months and will have a shorter-term impact on waiting times.