Bill for National Maternity Hospital move doubles to €300m

HSE argues ‘not reasonable’ to say cost of locating new facility at St Vincent’s has risen

Plans to move the maternity hospital from Holles Street to St Vincent’s were delayed by 18 months due to a row over governance. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Plans to move the maternity hospital from Holles Street to St Vincent’s were delayed by 18 months due to a row over governance. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

The expected bill for moving the National Maternity Hospital (NMH) has jumped by €150 million due to the cost of locating it in St Vincent’s hospital, rather than a greenfield site.

The long-delayed project in Dublin is now expected to cost €296 million, rather than the €150 million originally allocated, according to projections by the Health Service Executive (HSE).

The doubling of the cost of the project will further increase pressure on capital spending at the HSE, which is facing the prospect of a €1 billion bill for building the new national children’s hospital at St James’s. HSE director general Tony O’Brien has said the health service also needs €9 billion to renew outdated equipment.

The chairman of the Dáil Public Accounts Committee, Fianna Fáil TD Seán Fleming, said it planned to call in representatives of both the NMH and St Vincent’s to explain why the original cost assumptions were now “significantly flawed”.

The committee is already examining the escalating costs at the children’s hospital project in St James’s.

Plans to move the maternity hospital 3.4km from Holles Street to St Vincent’s were delayed by 18 months due to a row between the two institutions over governance. This was resolved last November, but construction inflation has risen rapidly in the interim.

‘Indicative sum’

A HSE spokesman said it was “not reasonable” to say the cost of the project had risen. He said the figure of €150 million used when former minister for health James Reilly announced the move in 2013 was the “nominal construction cost” for a greenfield site.

At the time of Dr Reilly’s announcement, his department said an “indicative sum” of €150 million had been approved for the project, but declined to give further details “because they are commercially sensitive”.

The HSE spokesman said yesterday the €150 million figure was also used for comparative purposes in 2012 when assessing the option of buying an office building adjacent to St Vincent’s for conversion into a maternity hospital. This was superseded by the plan to move it directly on to the St Vincent’s campus.

“While that cost estimate was appropriate in the option appraisal exercise it was never intended to reflect the full cost of the project in a specific location,” the spokesman said.

Once the decision was made to move to St Vincent’s the specific costs associated with this project were calculated, he said. These include construction costs, site clearance costs, design fees, planning levies and equipment.

The new total also included a provision for inflation and a contingency sum for risk, he said.

Spokespersons for St Vincent’s and the NMH referred questions to the HSE as the contracting authority for the development.

Construction was supposed to have begun last year with a completion date in 2018 but the row over governance delayed this schedule. The new facility is now expected to open in 2021.