HSE consider ending Citywest contract

By Maurice Garvey

THE HSE are considering the termination of it’s lease with Citywest Hotel – which they have been using as a self-isolation facility and field hospital since April 1.

A HSE spokesperson told The Echo this week “the decision to terminate the lease will be made at the highest level and is under consideration.”

Citywest Hotel External compressor

Citywest Hotel

As of Monday, the HSE said there have been 533 admissions to Citywest since April 1.

News of the potential termination of the licence, which was initially for a minimum period of seven months, comes following revelations that the HSE are paying €25m for use of Citywest until the end of October.

The Sunday Times discovered details of the deal between the HSE and Tertrarch, the hotel group that owns Citywest Hotel and convention centre, via a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

According to the Sunday Times, the HSE has an option to extend the deal to the end of the year, which would cost €31.6m.

Although the hotel has 756 bedrooms with 1,138 beds, last week there was just 26 people using it as an isolation facility.

FOI details reveal a €22.63m lease for seven months, which includes a rate of €142.50 a room per night.

The deal includes leasing the convention hall for €1.945m. The hall was prepared as a field hospital with more than 300 beds, but the anticipated surge of Covid-19 cases by authorities, has not materialised.

The deal includes food and beverages for people in isolation, as well as normal maintenance, laundry and cleaning services by the hotel’s staff.

The HSE told The Echo they will be seeking tax rebates, which work out at “approximately €68k per month”.

“The 23 per cent VAT rebate applies to the conference centre, and VAT rebate is being negotiated on the hotel,” said the HSE.

 A huge operation went into repurposing the Citywest campus, along with training some 150 hotel staff.

Last month, a worker at the facility told The Echo that colour codings of blue, orange and red are strictly controlled to ensure no crossover from patients, staff and healthcare workers.

“It is a well run operation. Hotel staff were given the option of continuing to work here but there was no pressure on them to do so. Everything has to be sterilised a few times a day. Staff are looked after well with pay and food,” said the worker.

The deal was criticised as a “phenomenal waste of money” by Louise O’Reilly, Sinn Féin’s health spokesperson.

Deputy O’Reilly acknowledged the need to ensure capacity was available but is concerned at payments “for additional space that is simply not being used.”

She also questioned why the field hospital in Citywest “wasn’t used when patients were moved out of hospitals into nursing homes.”

The HSE referred The Echo to it’s director Liam Woods discussion at the recent Covid-19 Oireachtas meeting.

Mr Woods said the facility in Citywest is “being closely studied with a view to opening it for clinical purposes associated with post-covid treatment and rehabilitative care.

“We are also thinking about using the facility for outpatient treatment because the space required for outpatients in the future will be much greater that what we have, even with the heavy use of virtual clinics.”

The HSE say the self-isolation facility in Citywest is receiving referrals daily from a range of health services countrywide.

“The term of the licence is for nine months but can be terminated after 90 days (or any day thereafter) with a notice period of 120 days. Therefore the minimum period is seven months,” it said.

According to the Sunday Times, Tetrarch completed a “multimillion euro investment in works to prepare the campus” and “none of these costs are recoverable under the licence.”

Tetrarch said: “The hotel provides all available services on site, other than healthcare and medical services.

This includes catering, housekeeping, cleaning and sanitation, waste disposal, maintenance, utilities, extensive campus security, and the cost of insurance during the licence term.”

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