Children's hospital project 'like a TY student playing with monopoly money'

The national children’s hospital project has been handled “like a TY student playing with monopoly money with the taxpayer picking up the tab” claims the founder of the Blackrock Clinic.

Jimmy Sheehan is warning that the new hospital on the St James’ site is going to be obsolete within a decade and “it will destroy politicians down the road.”

He told Newstalk’s Pat Kenny show that he had sought a meeting “every day for a year” with former Taoiseach Enda Kenny to discuss the cost and location of the new hospital. “I pleaded with his handlers, to get the opportunity to talk sense to him.”

Mr Sheehan welcomed the recent offer by builder Bam to “pause” the project.

“The politicians, if they had any sense whatsoever, they would have actually seen that this is the greatest opportunity, I was delighted when I heard Bam making that offer, I said this is the salvation of everybody concerned ... saving political blushes, it will destroy them forever after because the problem will only become apparent when the hospital opens.

“In 2016 in front of an Oireachtas committee I said I would be delighted, on a pro bono basis, to undertake the development on a greenfield site to help out and save hundreds of millions in the process.

“I can't understand the reluctance. It was an absolute no brainer and it was purely political at that time, a small element of medical politics, but mainly politicians who were unwilling to listen.

“There isn't one member of the Dáil that we didn't actually fully inform about the problems and the hazards that were going to arise, cost being the first of them, what amazes me is that the cost issue has come to a head so quickly, usually with these big infrastructural problems come away down the road nearing completion.

"Think how quickly all the other problems are going to materialise. It will destroy the politicians down the road."

Mr Sheehan also dismissed reports about every room in the new hospital would have a view of the Dublin mountains or hospital gardens.

“That's a load of rubbish, if you've ever been in that area you might see the mountains in the distance and the so-called garden on the roof, it's four floors overlapping ... with large trees. The average planting is about 18 inches in the beds, oak trees growing out that – that’s not possible.

“The current internal gardens in James hospital are largely a load of rubble. No one has bothered to care for them. They are very sad areas really.”

Mr Sheehan also expressed concern about the “over-engineering” of the St James site because of its size and location.

He was particularly concerned about the underground car park which he warned is likely to end up being “the most expensive car park in the world” with a cost of €65,000 per slot.

“The problem with an underground car park of that nature, if you build an overground car park you're talking about between €1,000 to €2,000 a slot, the James is about €65,000 per slot, there's no question that this is a €50m-€60m car park, one way or the other, it's probably the most expensive car park in the world ever built.

“I'd much prefer to see the most expensive car park than the most expensive hospital ever built because what you'd save by moving out to a greenfield site, you'd recoup that money straight away.

“The hospital had to be over-engineered for the site because the site was too small, my concern is not so much the money now, but look down the road, you’re going to have problems with access, the parking, the lack of expansion, the helipad problems, the inability to co-locate with maternity, in my opinion that's the biggest problem of all, the difficulty with staff as they won't be able to access it or get parking, there's a multiplicity of problems.

It will be a noose around our neck forever after.

He warned that problems will set in very quickly, “the parking and the traffic problems will be there straight away, the difficulties staffing it in that location will be very obvious early on.

“There's going to be a multiplicity of problems. I have absolutely no vested interest other than the future care of our children. I've said that repeatedly.

"It won't be fit for a decade. That's the sad part. Hospitals need continuous expansion. They're like airports.”

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