Department of Health sought €60,000 fee for children’s hospital chairwoman

Department said chairperson’s time commitment had almost trebled

The Department of Health made a plea for an annual fee of more than €60,000 for the chairperson of the board responsible for developing the long-delayed national children’s hospital.

The department wanted to pay the equivalent of an extra €651-per-day for the role because of the “critical stage” of the project, which has been beset by delays and enormous cost over-runs.

In a business case, the Department of Health said it had originally been foreseen that the chairperson role would require a commitment of around 28 to 35 days per year. However, as the children’s hospital project reached a “critical juncture”, they said the responsibility of the job had mushroomed and in the past year the chairperson had dedicated 96 days to the job.

Submissions from the Department of Public Expenditure show that Minister Paschal Donohoe agreed to top up the pay associated with the role from €20,050 annually with an additional payment of €41,976.


It said that Fiona Ross, who had taken the role as chair of the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board (NPHDB), had expertise and experience that was “extremely valuable and necessary” as the children’s hospital project draws to a close.

A submission to Mr Donohoe said: “The ... request to pay an additional fee of €41,967, on a 12-month pro-rata basis to the Chairperson of the NPHDB does not appear unreasonable.”

It said a significant extra time demand was involved in the role, that there was precedent for extra payments when this happened, and that the €651-per-day payment was “consistent” with similar roles.

“On the basis of the above, we recommend the D/Health proposal is approved. Subject to your [Mr Donohoe] agreement, we will advise D/Health accordingly,” said the submission.

Mr Donohoe’s assent to the increased rate of pay is marked simply with a comment of “agreed”.

The business case from the Department of Health said the responsibility of the role continued to grow due to the “recent challenges of the project”, with the final price tag for the hospital now estimated at well in excess of €2 billion.

The department said: “[There is a] need to ensure that the last 10 per cent of the construction project is delivered in as timely a manner as possible, and to a standard and quality that is the best it can possibly be.”

It said Ms Ross had said in the previous year that she had ended up working on the project for an average of nine to 10 ten days each month.

“Based on the additional demands over the last year, it can be expected that the Chair could spend a minimum of nine days per month on the project until the end of 2024,” the business case added.

The department said it was “crucial” that somebody of Ms Ross’ experience was in place to protect the significant taxpayer investment in the hospital, to get it finished as soon as possible, and to ensure that there was continuity in the board.

They said: “The project is currently at a critical stage and the Chair and Board have been focused on putting in place the optimal conditions for delivery of the project.”

Asked about the records, which were released under Freedom of Information, the Department of Public Expenditure said they had no further comment to make upon them.