I welcome Mr. Barry. He is still Chairman designate but I am sure his appointment will prove to be very appropriate. I raised the issue of the multiplicity of boards associated with the hospital at the committee's meeting with representatives from the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board when it became obvious that there were some cost overruns. Interaction between those boards is an absolute necessity. They should not be acting independently of one another because experience tells us that there is a danger that one of the interests involved will lead the project in a particular direction, which can lead to situations such as that we are now facing. There must be regular, weekly interaction. Personnel from one board must have ex officio representation on all of the other boards. Otherwise, one board will take off on a gallop over which the others have no control. I would not presume to advise Mr. Barry but I would suggest, based on past experience, that this is important.
Unfortunately, this project has got bad a press because it seems to be a question of guesstimating what will be the overall overrun. Deputy Donnelly has analysed the project from the very beginning and suggested that there could be no end to the overruns. I have listened to Deputy Donnelly carefully. I like him; he is a very nice fellow but I do not want to see over-exaggeration of the costs, even in the context of making a political point. I contend that the original guesstimate was way short of what it should have been. I look forward to the PwC report because it will identify the basis on which the figures were arrived at in the first instance. There was no basis at all for arriving at the figures mentioned at the outset. If one wants to quantify an overrun, the lower one starts, the bigger it will be. It is in the interests of those who want to criticise the project to have the original guesstimate of costs as low as possible. Between June and August of 2018, considerable effort was made by the boards to reduce the costs and a relatively small reduction was achieved. However, if this project were to stall, it would be a national disaster. The cost consequences would be massive. That has been the experience on many other projects here and throughout Europe.
I do not understand the need for the 6,000 rooms provided for in the project. I know that some of the rooms will house equipment and some will be for consultations but we have not been informed how the rest will be used. Obviously, the more rooms that are provided, the more expensive the project. It may be of benefit to reduce the number of rooms in the hospital. We do not know what will be in those rooms. Could the number be reduced without undermining the overall thrust of what the hospital is about? There is no reason it could not be revised further, subject to planning permission, the process relating to which can, admittedly, be fickle. Nonetheless, we should look at the fact that it is a 12-acre site on an overall site that is three or four times that size. I was approached recently about the possibility of rearranging the traffic to and from the site in a way that would reduce costs. I do not know if that is a realistic possibility because I am not familiar with the traffic movements in the area, but perhaps it could be considered.
This hospital has been campaigned for and sought for nearly 40 years but has not yet materialised. It has not materialised because agreement could not be reached on where it should be located. There will never be such agreement even if we are to wait for another 40 years. There will never be agreement on the optimum location and that is a fact. This is because of national and medical politics and the different objectives of various actors, many of which are held in good faith. However, if we are going to make progress we cannot postpone this forever. It is not in the interests of children's health to do so. It has not been beneficial to children's health that the hospital has not yet been built; it should have been built at least 20 years ago.
I also have a question on the fitting out of the hospital. The fitting out is an add-on in all hospitals and is expensive. I recall when Beaumont Hospital was being fitted out. The building was left idle for a year or 18 months while the fitting out took place. There are extra or add-on costs involved. It is no good saying that we knew what the costs would be because we did not know. We do not know what the total will be until the fitting-out costs are clearly identified.
I cannot understand why detailed specification and quantity surveyor reports are not always required before proceeding with a project, in order to protect everybody. We should not indulge in rough or even precise estimates in a project of this size. This hospital is needed but it must be built in accordance with the requirements for which advocates have petitioned for many years. It would be an enormous disappointment to the families of sick children and the children themselves were it to be delayed indefinitely while a political wrangle takes place over where it should be located and how it should be costed. This is not the first location chosen for this hospital. It was to be built on the Mater site and a number of other sites were also proposed. The proposal for the current location incorporates two other hospitals at Blanchardstown and Tallaght.
It is a comprehensive proposal that should not be dismissed in the way some people are dismissing it. Somebody spent money somewhere in the past ten or 15 years and we have very little to show for it yet. We should proceed cautiously and ensure that the hospital is at least on par with those throughout the world, which is what we hope.