Construction firm stops work on national children’s hospital

Bam Ireland halts work on project due to coronavirus restrictions on ‘non-essential’ service

Work at the national children’s hospital site at St.James Hospital in  Dublin. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Work at the national children’s hospital site at St.James Hospital in Dublin. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

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BAM Ireland has announced it has stopped work on the building of the National Children’s Hospital in Dublin.

The construction company said it ceased work on the project “immediately” on getting confirmation from the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board that the hospital is not deemed an essential construction service in the context of the Covid-19 restrictions.

The Irish Times understands the decision to close the site was complicated by questions over responsibility for any additional costs incurred in the overall project, due to the site closure.

On Monday Bam Ireland referred to the Government announcement that some large scale construction projects could be exempt from restrictions announced by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Bam said it had been unable to get clarity from its “employer” the hospital development board. In the absence of a declaration that the hospital project was not an “essential” construction project, the company had kept the site open.

However on Monday Rise TD Paul Murphy accused the company of putting workers’ lives at risk by keeping the hospital site open.

Sources close to the project said neither Bam Ireland nor the hospital board wanted to take responsibility for closing the hospital site, given that additional costs might accrue.

Further talks took place between Bam and the board on Tuesday. They concluded with a statement from Bam that the board had deemed the construction was non-essential. However the board also released a statement saying “all health and safety matters on the site of the new children’s hospital including workforce health and safety are the responsibility of the main contractor Bam”.

The board said it was “Bam’s obligation to shut down the site and given the health and safety risks that Covid-19 places on its workforce the NPHDB welcomes its decision to do so”.

The development of the new hospital has been the source of major political controversy over soaring costs. The Cabinet was told in December 2018 by Minister for Health Simon Harris that the overall bill for the new facility was estimated at more than €1.7 billion – an increase of €450 million since the Government originally backed the project in April 2017. However, the opposition argued that the final cost could exceed €2 billion.

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