Calls for probe into €35m lost in hospital fiasco
THE State's spending watchdog has been urged to investigate a €35m write-off resulting from the failed plan to locate the new National Children's Hospital on Dublin's northside.
The call was made by Sinn Fein TD Mary Lou McDonald after the Dail's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) heard details of the huge sum lost when the project failed to get planning permission.
The project director for the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board (NPHDB), John Pollock, told the PAC some €41.5m had been spent trying to secure planning at a site at the Mater Hospital.
But just €6.2m of this work will have "a retained value" on the new 12-acre site at St James's Hospital.
The St James's site was selected in 2012 after An Bord Pleanala rejected the Mater plan because the proposed building would have been too tall.
Bringing the new hospital to the planning stage is set to cost an additional €32m, Mr Pollock told the Public Accounts Committee.
The hospital board hopes to apply for planning in June of next year and for construction to begin in early 2016.
The new hospital, which will have around 2,300 staff and 390 beds, will cost €650m to build and is expected to take its first patients in 2019.
The St James's site is three times larger than what was available at the Mater.
Ms McDonald said the amount being written off was "astonishing" as €35m was now being declared "null and void".
She said the scale of the write-off merited a dedicated investigation.
The hearing was told the project was now on its third different board of directors.
Fine Gael TD Paul Connaughton asked Mr Pollock if there had initially been a shortage in the skill sets and level of expertise involved in the project, to which he responded: "I believe there was."
Committee member Joe Costello asked what would become of existing children's hospitals in Crumlin and Temple Street.
Department of Health assistant secretary Tracey Conroy said: "It wouldn't be envisaged that there would be paediatric services remaining on those sites."
However, she could not say whether or not they would close. Mr Costello accused the previous board of "reckless planning".
He said it was clear from a Bord Pleanala inspector's report that a planning application for a 16-storey building would be in breach of the local area plan and the city council development plan.
NPHDB chairman Tom Costello said it was impossible for the current board to comment on why the Mater plan failed. However, he sought to assure the committee that everything was being done to ensure planning was not rejected for a second time.
A design team for the new hospital was appointed in August, led by BDP Architects.
The hospital will have two satellite centres at Tallaght and Connolly Hospitals, which will be able to provide emergency and out-patient services.