Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice has called for the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, to vacate his ministerial position over the significant cost overruns in the construction of the National Children’s Hospital.
However, the Roscommon-Galway TD also indicated that the protest which took place outside the minister’s family home over the weekend was “unacceptable”.
Commenting on the matter, Fitzmaurice said: “We have seen the fiasco in the National Children’s Hospital develop and come to light in recent weeks.
“Firstly, let me say that I totally opposed the decision to initially situate the hospital on the Mater campus and I maintained that stance when the decision was taken to move it to St James’s Hospital – by 2015, between €50-60 million had already been wasted.
“I have always said that a greenfield site was the way to move forward with this project. At the time, the Government clearly indicated that they would go down that route if they had enough money.
“Ironically enough, it was decided that there wasn’t sufficient funds there to build on a greenfield site – despite the cost of the project now expected to reach almost €2 billion.”
Fitzmaurice lamented the fact that this Government is now progressing with a hospital that doesn’t have the facilities to allow a helicopter to land with critically ill patients and which is poorly accessible for the vast majority of the country.
In terms of the construction phase of the project, it has been a disaster, he added.
“For anyone that understands building, when you get as far as ground level the worst stage of building a hospital should be behind you – but, ironically, this is the section of this project which is going to lose the most money.
“There are various types of building contracts – yellow form and blue form, as well as design and build. The State must admit at this stage that it is not fit for purpose when it comes to building critical pieces of infrastructure such as hospitals.
“The way in which Minister Harris has handled this has been totally disastrous. In my opinion, Harris needs to move aside.
“Second of all, the civil servants at the top that allowed this situation need to be identified and held accountable.”
‘If it were up to me, I would stop this contract immediately’
Continuing, the independent TD asked would not have been simpler to get a design and build fixed-price contract.
“Obviously, the State doesn’t understand how you do things efficiently. The State has also employed consultants; has there indemnity insurance been put on notice for this or – once more – is every one going to get away scot-free and leave the tax payers with the bill.
“If it were up to me, I would stop this contract immediately – as there is an option on any contract to put it on hold due to unforeseen circumstances. Different options need to be looked at in my opinion. Blanchardstown has always stood out to me as the best option.”
Meanwhile, Fitzmaurice has called on Fine Gael politicians to come out and state very clearly that new builds in Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe or in the hospitals in Galway city will not be “kicked down the road” as a result of this overspend.
Concluding, he said: “When bad mistakes are made in this country, traditionally rural Ireland feels the brunt of the impact.
“We need to make sure that projects earmarked for the west of Ireland – that have already been neglected in recent years – are not sacrificed as a result of mistakes made in different Government departments.
“If you look at all of the fiascoes which have occurred down through the years in this country, the sad reality is that the State has never had the guts to hold people accountable and leave them without a job when mistakes are made.
“If a situation similar to the National Children’s Hospital arose in the private sector, the people who were responsible would be looking for work somewhere else.”