Funding for new 60-bed unit at University Hospital Limerick 'not yet approved'

Fintan Walsh


Fintan Walsh


Funding for 60 extra beds at University Hospital Limerick  'not yet approved'

Minister Simon Harris cofirmed details of the 60-bed unit during a visit to Limerick last November

THE GOVERNMENT has come under fire after it has emerged that capital funding has yet to be approved for the crucial 60-bed block at University Hospital Limerick.

This important piece of infrastructure will act as an interim measure before a 96-bed block is delivered, sometime in the 2020s, in order to assuage Limerick’s overcrowding problem.

On November 5 last, Minister Simon Harris announced in Limerick that funding had been committed for the project, which is expected to cost in the region of €19.5m.

Senator Maria Byrne was one of many local politicians who welcomed Minister Harris’ announcement on the day, when he launched Milford Care Centre’s major expansion.

Labour TD and Public Accounts Committee vice-chairperson Alan Kelly submitted a parliamentary query, asking when in 2019 the 60-bed modular unit would be open.

Jim Curran, of head of estates at the HSE, wrote Deputy Kelly last Friday, informing him that the 60-bed block still awaits confirmation for capital funding.

In the letter, Mr Curran stated: “A proposal for the development of a 60-bed ward block at University Hospital Limerick is being considered for inclusion in the HSE Capital Plan along with other initiatives.

“The proposed project was approved by the National Capital & Property Steering Committee and awaits the confirmation of capital funding and will be assessed in the context of completing priorities.”

Reacting to the letter and its contents, former Clare TD Michael McNamara said “it seems that the Mid-West and those who live here are again being put on hold”.

In a statement to the Limerick Leader, the former Labour TD said: “Despite the announcement three months ago by the Minister for Health Simon Harris that €19.5m funding had been committed for the construction of a 60-bed modular block at University Hospital Limerick and confirmation as recently as last week by Fine Gael representatives in the region that the project was proceeding, it now appears from a reply by the HSE to a parliamentary question by Alan Kelly TD that funding has yet to be allocated and is being assessed in the context of completing priorities".

Mr McNamara added: “I can only assume this is due to the overspend and spiraling costs at the National Children’s Hospital in Dublin. What else has changed? The Minister would surely not have said it was funded in November if it wasn’t and we have been told in recent days that the overspend would impact on other planned capital projects. It seems that the Mid-West and those who live here are again being put on hold."

Mr Curran said in the response to Deupty Kelly that a fracture unit will be built in the old emergency department in 2019, and that UHL will be allocated funding to “undertake high priority infrastructural risk projects”.

Last month, Labour TD Jan O’Sullivan raised concerns about the possibility of a delay in the 60-bed project due to the massive overspend in the children’s hospital.

It was hoped that the project would open in 2019, however it is not likely to open before early 2020, as excavation works has yet to begin before a 300-day construction contract commences.

The UL Hospitals Group was contacted in relation to the funding but did not issue a comment at the time of going to press.

The Department of Health was also contacted about the matter in the context of Minister Harris’ announcement in November.

Tom Costello, the chairman of the National Children's Hospital development board, stepped down on Saturday while Taoiseach Leo Varadkar insisted over the weekend that no capital projects would be cancelled because as a result of the rising costs of the National Children's Hospital.