Serious questions have been raised over a €41.5m outlay on Covid self-isolation facilities and field hospitals which have gone largely unused.
The Citywest Hotel in Dublin, one of several hotels used by the HSE, had the capacity to accommodate 1,138 people at any one time, but throughout the pandemic there were never more than 300 people who were staying there.
Figures released by the HSE reveal that the Citywest facility has been used by 4,000 patients since it opened at a cost of £35.6million.
In addition to the national self-isolation facility and emergency hospital beds, Citywest was also used as a Covid testing location, a vaccination center and an outpatient facility, with only the vaccination center remaining in place. .
Meanwhile, £333,420 has been spent preparing a field hospital at the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG), which has never been used, and the HSE will have to pay further reintegration costs”, such as painting and other works, which have yet to be confirmed.
Paul de Freine, HSE’s acting national capital and estates director, said the Bailey Allen Hall was made available in March 2020 but ultimately the Galway hospital system was “capable of handling Covid-19 admissions”.
“The need for additional emergency hospital beds in Galway has been reduced and the NUIG Intermediate Care Facility (ICF) has been removed,” he said.
In Limerick, a 68-bed facility that can scale up to 84 beds has been set up at the UL Arena.
However, the maximum bed capacity reached in its operating time was 32 beds. In the almost five months of operation of the Limerick facility, a total of 188 patients received care at the facility.
Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín described the spending as a “shocking waste of public money” and accused the government of “losing control of itself” when it comes to spending public funds.
“We already know that the HSE bought ventilators from China that didn’t work, as well as hand sanitizer deemed unsuitable at the cost of millions to the taxpayer. Additionally, we know that they have contracts with hospitals private to the tune of one billion euros.
“What we see now in these figures is that 35.5 million euros have been spent on contracts with the Citywest Hotel and Convention Centre, and that throughout the duration of these contracts, there is no had, on average, only an occupancy rate of 8% for the 1,138 beds available.
“This means that 92% of the funds, or 32.6 million euros, were spent on beds that were never used,” Mr Tóibín said.