'No significant savings to be had' that will affect €1.43bn cost of children’s hospital

There are “no significant savings to be had” that will affect the headline €1.43bn cost of the new national children’s hospital, the new project leader told the Oireachtas health committee.

Fred Barry is the chair-designate of the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board tasked with delivering the new children’s hospital on the campus shared with St James’s Hospital in Dublin.

Committee chairman, Dr Michael Harty, asked what would happen if the project, which is due to be completed in mid-2022, ran over time.

"We will be having a very keen focus on costs and where we are in costs on an ongoing basis.”

The had monthly board meetings and they would be getting detailed cost reports and forecasts at all of those meetings.

If we start forecasting that costs are going above the current €1.43bn, we will be flagging that immediately to everybody else involved.

“I do think that one of the disappointing things in the process so far was that that the actual costs were recognised rather late in the day. We will try to avoid anything like that happening again.”

Earlier he told Fianna Fáil’s Stephen Donnelly, he did not think the cost would be “significantly different” from the headline figure.

Fianna Fáil TD Margaret Murphy O’Mahony asked how the public perception of the National Children’s Hospital could be changed.

“Everybody believes that the hospital is needed and wishes it luck but we all agree that it had a bad start,” she said.

Mr Barry said it was unfortunate that the much-needed children's hospital now has the aura of the cost issue around it.

However, the hospital had to be built and it had to be a great facility for children.

“Eventually, if it works really well for the public, the memory of the rest will fade.”

Fine Gael’s Kate O’Connell, said some people believed that the site of the hospital was just a hole in the ground - nothing else.

“There is an awful lot of work done on the site already. The idea of moving to a new location now should really be put from everybody’s mind,” he said.

Mr Barry said there was “absolutely no certainty” that An Bord Pleanála would allow the project to be built at another site.

If the project was moved somewhere else it could be five or six years before tendering for construction contracts could start again.

“If the project is to be delivered it needs to be delivered where it is,” he said.

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