With an estimated cost of $1.93 billion, close to three times the original calculations, the children's hospital at St. James's in Dublin, faces growing political controversy.
Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe has said he believes information on the escalating cost of the new National Children’s Hospital should have been made available to the government earlier.
The hospital, under construction at St. James’s in Dublin, is set to become the most expensive medical facility in the world.
There was an estimate of $737.91 million (€650m) a little over two years ago when planning permission was given. The projected cost has steadily risen to $1.93 billion (€1.73bn), rapidly approaching three times the original estimate, a rise of more than €1 million a day.
The government now faces a growing political controversy over costs.
Donohoe told RTE on Monday that he first became aware of the scale of the increase last November despite the fact that an official from his department is a member of the hospital development board.
The minister said he knew all of the individuals on the board and he was sure they took their responsibility very seriously and they were aware of the national importance of the project.
Donohoe rejected opposition calls for the project to be moved from its present six-acre site to a 90-acre site available at Connolly Hospital on the northwest side of Dublin at Blanchardstown.
Donohoe said relocation was not possible at this stage because of the amount of progress on the St. James site in the inner area of west Dublin, and closer to the city center.
The minister said that next week he would announce a list of capital projects that may be delayed because of the escalating cost of the hospital.
He said he is gravely concerned at the escalating cost, but warned that as high as the cost is, “What is the price of better health outcomes for children?”
The government has commissioned the professional services firm PwC to review the cost overruns and to report back by March.
Last Saturday, Tom Costello, chairman of the hospital development board, stepped down. Chairman of the Oireachtas Health Committee Dr. Michael Harty said he expected to see further resignations among those involved in the project.
Harty said he was concerned “no one is accepting responsibility yet” for the cost overrun.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said on Sunday the terms of reference of a review into the cost overrun will be revised “to enable the investigation to find individuals accountable if they’re able to do that.”
He told RTE the public was right to be angry over the cost overrun but said its scale was manageable within the project’s 10-year timeframe.