Children's hospital: Engineer in charge of project resigns

John Pollock’s is the fifth resignation from the long-delayed and controversial project

February 6th, 2019: Minister for Health Simon Harris TD has told the Oireachtas health committee that he remained unaware of the scale of emerging cost overruns on the national children’s hospital for almost a year. Video: Oireachtas TV

 

The national children’s hospital has suffered a fresh blow with the resignation of John Pollock, the experienced engineer who was in charge of building the project.

Mr Pollock tendered his resignation as project director of the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board on Tuesday after five years and four months in the post.

Along with board chairman Tom Costello, Mr Pollock shouldered the brunt of criticism from TDs when both men appeared at a series of Dáil committees in recent months, convened after it emerged the projected cost of the project had risen by €500 million in little over a year.

All these milestones achieved over the last five years have been hugely satisfying and I am very proud of what has been achieved

The cost of building the facility at St James’s Hospital in Dublin has increased from €987 million in 2017 to over €1.4 billion, The Irish Times revealed in December. The total bill for the project when other costs are included will be €1.7 billion, and possibly more, making it one of the most expensive hospitals in the world.

Mr Pollock’s is the fifth resignation from the long-delayed and controversial project, and follows that of Mr Costello last month and three previous chairmen of the development board.

Cost overrun

Consultants PwC, who were commissioned by the Government to investigate the reasons for the massive cost overrun and whether any savings can be made, are due to report next month.

A computer generated image showing how the new children’s hospital will look from the air.
A computer generated image showing how the new children’s hospital will look from the air.

In a resignation statement, Mr Pollock enumerated the “many successful milestones” achieved by his team over the past five years, including the “expeditious” design of the building, the “successful” obtaining of planning permission in 2016 and the operation of a “rigorous” procurement process for constructing the building.

“All these milestones achieved over the last five years have been hugely satisfying and I am very proud of what has been achieved. The project has now moved into the final phase of construction, and with this under way, I believe it is an opportune point for me to move from the project. I plan to do so later this summer.”

The board said it had reluctantly accepted his resignation, adding that Mr Pollock had brought the project “from a vision to one that is now much closer to becoming a reality”.

The site of the new national children’s hospital in Dublin. There are suggestions that the final bill could top €2 billion, making it one of the most expensive hospitals in the world. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
The site of the new national children’s hospital in Dublin. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw

“He leaves the project with the certainty that it is on track to be completed by 2022 and will open for the benefit of children, families, young people and staff by 2023.”

Disappointed

Incoming chairman designate Fred Barry said the board was disappointed Mr Pollock was leaving but respected his decision. “Families and children in Ireland owe John a significant debt of gratitude for the personal commitment that he has shown to this project as well as the huge skill and expertise that has brought it through the design and planning phase and the commencement of build.”

Mr Pollock has more than 35 years’ experience in the Irish and international building industry, including healthcare projects in the Middle East, where he moved during the economic downturn. He graduated from UCC with a first-class degree in civil engineering.

Mr Barry, who has yet to be formally appointed by Government, has indicated he does not think there is much scope for making savings on the cost of the project.