Children’s hospital board due to be warned over project costs at PAC hearing

Secretary general of health department to outline plans to increase oversight of project

Work continues at the site of the new national children’s hospital at St James’s Hospital in Dublin. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Work continues at the site of the new national children’s hospital at St James’s Hospital in Dublin. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

The board of the national children’s hospital must ensure that the cost of the project does not rise further, the secretary general of the Department of Health Jim Breslin is expected to warn today.

Mr Breslin will outline plans to increase the oversight of the project with new senior personnel due to be hired.

The National Paediatric Hospital Development Board (NPHDB) will appear alongside Mr Breslin at the Public Accounts Committee on Thursday morning.

The board is expected to tell TDs that the construction of the main hospital and its two satellite centres in Tallaght and Connolly Hospital is running on time.

In his opening statement, Mr Breslin says that the Government will shortly publish an implementation plan in light of the findings of a recent PwC report which found a “series of weaknesses” involving the planning and oversight of the project.

The cost of the project has risen from an estimated €800 million in 2014, to €983 million in 2017, and €1.43 billion now or €1.73 billion including IT and other costs.

The new implementation plan “will address the deficiencies identified in the report, including developing and implementing where necessary more robust project control and project assurance plans appropriate for a project of this national importance throughout the remaining construction programme,” Mr Breslin is expected to say.

He will point out that the PwC report warned that the “gross maximum price” established through the building process to date “does not provide a contractual ceiling on cost and significant residual risks remain.

“A primary focus of the NPHDB must be on managing this risk and preventing further cost increases.”

He is expected to say that a new chief officer post is now being advertised, with a new project director to be appointed in the coming months.

The PwC report also found that the composition of another two oversight structures, made up of health and HSE senior officials, “meant that their collective ability to provide challenge to the role of the NPHDB was limited.” Mr Breslin says this will be addressed.

“The review was satisfied that these structures did not impede the flow of information in relation to the cost escalation but did find that the terms of reference and composition of the CHP&P Steering Group and Board meant that their collective ability to provide challenge to the role of the NPHDB was limited, and accordingly recommends a review of these matters. Such changes will form part of the Implementation Plan to be approved by Government.”

The chair of the hospital board Fred Barry is also set to appear before the PAC on Thursday morning.

He is expected to outline in his opening statement how the building plans are on time.

“The Paediatric Outpatient and Urgent Care Centre at Connolly is complete and earlier this week was handed over to Children’s Health Ireland for them to commence the commissioning and transitioning of staff. Children’s Health Ireland will operate the service and the centre is due to open in July 2019.”

“Decant works at Tallaght University Hospital are now complete and the new creche, changing facility and offices are open. Construction work on the 4,600 sq m (49.5 sq ft) paediatric outpatient and urgent care centre started last month and is due to open in 2020.”

On the main St James’s site, he will tell TDs that construction work is “progressing well” with the project open in 2023.