Minister for Health Simon Harris has only met with the board of the controversial Children’s Hospital twice in three years, it has been revealed.
Independent TD Mattie McGrath said the details were confirmed in a reply to the Tipperary TD by Minister Harris, who has only personally met with the National Paediatric Hospital development board (NPHDB) on two occasions since May 2016 when he became Minister for Health – once on a visit to the new children hospital site on 28th August 2019 and most recently at a meeting with the Chair and Chief Officer of the NPHDB on 18th November 2019:
“I think most people will be appalled to hear that Minister Harris did not think it was sufficiently important to meet with the NPHDB, except on two recent occasions, since he became Minister in May 2016,” said Deputy McGrath.
“In his reply to me, Minister Harris simply states that he is updated on a regular basis on developments relating to the new children’s hospital by Departmental officials through various oversight channels. However, this level of hands off approach is almost beyond belief given the dramatic escalation in the scale of the projects costs that have taken place under his tenure,” the deputy from Tipperary stated.
The costs of the Children’s Hospital have been the source of ongoing controversy since it emerged that the head of the board responsible for the new national children’s hospital says it cannot be certain of the final price of the project.
The project has been highly controversial, with budget overruns and estimates to completion reaching to €1.7 billion and then climbing further to an expected €2 billion more recently.
“Did it never occur to him, even when the costs were rising by hundreds of millions during 2017, 2018 and 2019, to arrange a meeting in order to engage directly with the board of the Children’s Hospital? I cannot comprehend this level of personal and ministerial detachment from the single largest health infrastructure project in the history of the state. It just beggars belief,” he said.
He said Minister Harris clearly felt that various steering groups and project management groups within his department “absolved him from the need to be directly and personally involved”.
“That should have been absolutely clear to him given the public and financial disaster that the project was becoming,” Deputy McGrath said.