Children’s hospital most expensive to construct in world

Cost of National Children’s Hospital on St James’s site has soared to about €1bn

December 1st, 2015: An animation shows the plans currently in place for the proposed children's hosiptal to be built on the site of the current St James’s Hospital.


The proposed €1 billion National Children’s Hospital in Dublin will be the most expensive children’s hospital to be built anywhere in the world, according to international data.

The hospital on the St James’s site will join the futuristic Royal Adelaide Hospital in Australia on a list of the world’s 20 most expensive buildings. The Australian hospital, which has so far cost €2.2 billion, will use robots to deliver food to 800 patients.

Most details about the spiralling costs of the Irish project are likely to emerge shortly at the Dáil Public Accounts Committee, which has summoned the team planning it to a meeting amid growing concerns.

In 2012, it was expected to cost €404 million. By the time the contract was awarded for the St James’s site, it had jumped to €485 million. Two years ago, when an application for planning permission was lodged, it had increased to €650 million. Today, the figure has reached €1 billion, but it could go higher.

The new hospital will have 473 beds, all in single rooms, and the budget includes the construction of two smaller satellite centres at Tallaght and Blanchardstown. It does not, however, include IT and equipment.

US hospitals

After Adelaide and Dublin, the next most expensive hospitals on the list compiled by architectural data company Emporis are three US hospitals finished in 2012, for between €546 million and €617 million each. Two are in Chicago and the other is a women’s hospital in Texas.

Like Dublin, the hospital in Adelaide has had a difficult birth. That was supposed to open in April 2017 but became bogged down in a bitter legal battle over alleged defects, which were only recently settled, between the South Australian authorities and the builders. So far, it is $640 million over budget.

However, the Royal Adelaide still does not have a fixed opening date. “There’s no reason why we couldn’t be in before flu season hits in 2017,” South Australia’s health minister Jack Snelling declared earlier this month.

The recently built Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool was designed by the same architects involved at St James’s. With 270 beds, it is smaller than the Irish children’s hospital but the cost is just £280 million (€330 million). The price actually dropped by almost £60 million due to a downturn in construction at the time. Opened in 2015, it is located in parkland in a suburb of the city.

The projected cost for St James’s compares unfavourably with the €120 million projected cost of building the 170-bed National Forensic Mental Health Service Hospital in Portrane.

Meanwhile, moving the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin from Holles Street to the St Vincent’s site in Elm Park is now expected to cost €300 million, twice the original estimate.