IT IS now costing the HSE almost €200,000 a year to rent the ‘temporary’ Outpatients Department of Letterkenny University Hospital in Scally Place, it has emerged.
That represents a hike of almost one hundred and fifty per cent on the fee charged when the new facility, adjacent to the former Courthouse in the centre of Letterkenny, first opened its doors in early December 2013.
The premises at Justice Walsh Road has been home to 27 modern dedicated clinic rooms since the existing facility at the hospital suffered significant flood damage at the end of July 2013.
Outpatient clinics continue to be provided on both the LUH campus as well as in the main LUH Outpatient Department located in Scally Place.
Last year there were 42,291 outpatient attendances at the clinics. The number of attendances for these clinics in 2014 was 36,093.
A spokesperson for the HSE confirmed that the number of clinic rooms in Scally Place has not changed since the facility was opened.
“The present costs are as follows: Rental is €197,500 per annum while managed service costs (lifts/general area) is € 26,988 pa,” the spokesperson said.
In response to a detailed query submitted by the Donegal News, the HSE said the original rent (€81,000 per annum) was at a greatly reduced rate for a period of two years due to the fact that the HSE provided capital to fit out a ‘shell and core’ building.
“The current rate is a competitive rate for the area we are renting and negotiated at the end of the original reduced period,” the HSE said.
The Health authority declined to say how many years were left in the current contract.
“LUH Management are pursuing a number of options and considering the feasibility of same when planning the return of these Outpatient Services to the Letterkenny Hospital Campus. The strategic plan for the hospital involves the creation of a four-storey Ambulatory Care Facility which would accommodate not only the main Outpatient Service but also other Ambulatory / Day Care Services and which would provide for the development of Enhanced Critical Care Facilities. This would be a multi-million Euro capital project for which initial scoping / planning has been started,” the statement read.
Councillor Liam Blaney, a former member of the HSE West Forum, said he was ‘alarmed’ at the significant jump in the rent being paid.
“Five years ago we were told that services would return to the hospital in due course. At the time it was indicated that that would be in the region of two years and yet here we are five years later being told about alarming hikes of almost one hundred and fifty per cent in rental fees,” Cllr Blaney said.
After the floods, members of the HSE were told that it would cost in the region of €1.25 million to purchase equipment and furnishings to replace those lost in the flood of the hospital.
“It was supposed to be a two-year contract but I expressed concern at the time that given the amount of money spent on equipping the McGinley building (new Outpatients Department) that they would be there for an indefinite period of time and that has proven to be the case so far.
“There’s a huge building across the road from Letterkenny University Hospital (St Conal’s campus) that it not being fully utilised. There’s other large amounts of money being spent by the HSE on renting premises and other services – like agency staff and private ambulances. Surely that money could be put to better use.
“It makes you wonder at times what’s going on within the HSE . I’m no longer a board member of the HSE West but it’s times like this I wish I was because there’s a lot of questions which no-one on the board seems prepared to ask them,” Cllr Blaney said.
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