Delays in completion of national children’s hospital ‘exacerbated’ by lack of programme

Board overseeing the project has yet to receive ‘valid works programme’ from builder

Site of the new national children’s hospital. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Site of the new national children’s hospital. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

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Delays in the completion of the new national children’s hospital have been “exacerbated” as the board overseeing the project has yet to receive a “valid work programme” from the builder.

The National Paediatric Hospital Development Board (NPHDB) is currently carrying out a new assessment of the project to determine how much the hospital will cost and when it might be finished.

The cost has risen from an estimated €800 million in 2014, to €983 million in 2017, and at least €1.43 billion now. Equipping the building and providing IT systems pushes this bill up to at least €1.73 billion and there has been speculation that the eventual cost could exceed €2 billion.

Under the original plan the hospital was expected to open in 2023, however delays are continuing on site.

Last November, the project board said that it was waiting to receive an updated plan from the main contractor, BAM. A spokeswoman for the NPHDB confirmed last week that the new programme of work has not yet been received.

“Despite ongoing engagement with the main contractor, the NPHDB is still without a valid works programme that is in line with its contractual obligations. Under the contract, the new children’s hospital was due to be completed by the end of 2022 and handed over to Children’s Health Ireland to open in 2023 after a period of commissioning.

“However, as the NPHDB informed the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health in December 2020, the main contractor was behind schedule before Covid-19 and the delays have been exacerbated since.

“The NPHDB is continuing to engage with the main contractor to obtain an updated programme of works that is in line with its contractual commitments and it is currently undertaking as assessment of the position in order to assess a revised likely timeframe and cost, bearing in mind the delays and the productivity on site to date.”

Claims

While a new cost estimate has not yet been given to Government, it emerged last year that BAM had submitted more than 600 claims for extra costs amounting to more than €200 million.

Last November BAM said that while an impression had been given there was no valid work programme, the company had “submitted several programmes and has updated them every month tracking actual versus planned progress”.

“The client is maintaining that for technical reasons (some related to Covid) the programme has deficiencies which makes it ‘non-compliant’. BAM disagrees and is satisfied that the programme as submitted is more than what is needed to monitor progress.”

It is understood this is still the company’s position.

Meanwhile, the project board also received confirmation from the Department of Health last week that the project is included in a list of essential health projects that are exempt from current Covid-19 restrictions in relation to the closure of construction sites.

“Construction works are continuing at the new children’s hospital site and the NPHDB is in ongoing communication with the main contractor about its responsibilities with respect to operations and health and safety, and with the local resident representatives and public representatives about their concerns.”

A dedicated resident’s committee met twice last week and BAM has confirmed that it is implementing enhanced safety measures on and around the site, a spokeswoman for the board said.

“The health and safety of the people working on site, as well as those living in close proximity to the site, the public, and the suppliers, is of paramount importance to everyone working on the project.”