Everybody in this House wants to see the national children's hospital completed on time and within budget. As we know, the project has gone through many trials and tribulations. The Mater site did not get planning permission and then the site at St. James' Hospital site was identified by the then Minister for Health, Senator James Reilly. When that was announced the cost was estimated at around €485 million. In 2016, after planning permission had been sanctioned, the cost was estimated at about €650 million. We are now told that the projected cost is €1.4 billion. This is despite the fact that on 27 September, and the week before that in reply to a parliamentary question asked by Deputy Cowen, the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, said it would be about €983 million. In the space of about six weeks it has apparently gone from less than €1 billion to €1.4 billion, which is extraordinary stuff.
The management of major capital projects is critically important. We have a Minister for Health, we have a Cabinet committee on health, and yet the recently projected cost of €1.4 billion seems to have caught everybody by surprise, including the Taoiseach. It has an impact on other projects within the health service and indeed across the public service in general. The Secretary General of the Department of Health has met the hospital group with a view to reining in costs. At an event in recent days, the Taoiseach himself said that the cost has gone beyond all expectations and beyond what anybody anticipated, and that it would mean other projects or services would be scratched or certainly delayed. We have recently seen a report from the Health Information and Quality Authority, HIQA, which comments very critically on clapped-out equipment in hospitals throughout the country. It refers to 12 year old equipment at the Mercy University Hospital in Cork. It mentions St. Michael's Hospital, Dún Laoghaire.
Breast cancer equipment in Cork University Hospital, which is a centre of excellence, is out of date. The ballooning costs of the children's hospital and the nature of how this has come into the public domain suggests that many of these requirements of hospitals throughout the country will not now be met because of the impact of the soaring cost of the children's hospital and the lack of any controls put in place.
Why the absence of transparency on this? Deputy Cowen has been pursuing this for quite some time, as indeed have many journalists such as Mr. Paul Cullen. Will the Taoiseach confirm that the up-to-date projected cost, including IT and fit-out costs, is €1.4 billion? Is that the upper limit of the cost of the hospital? How did this overrun occur? Were there deficiencies at tender stage? Will the Taoiseach outline to the House what other projects will be delayed or cancelled as a result of the overrun on the children's hospital, and will he specify that in terms of Health and other Departments? Will the Government stop stonewalling on this and provide a detailed and transparent presentation on this entire issue because the public is entitled to know?