School building firm being sued by department wins HSE contract

Western Building Systems to build €9.5m 60-bed block at University Hospital Limerick

Western Building Systems has won a contract to build a  a 60 bed ward block at University Hospital Limerick. Photograph: iStock

Western Building Systems has won a contract to build a a 60 bed ward block at University Hospital Limerick. Photograph: iStock

 

Western Building Systems, the Co Tyrone company being sued by the Department of Education over structural defects at 42 schools, has been awarded a €14 million contract by the Health Service Executive (HSE).

The company has won a contract from the HSE to design and build a 60 bed ward block at University Hospital Limerick.

Minister for Health Simon Harris said he expected the HSE to properly supervise the construction of the new hospital block in Limerick.

Last week a further 17 schools were identified as having structural defects, in addition to 22 structures identified last year. Part of Ardgillan Community College in Dublin was closed down as a result of the safety concerns. It remains closed. Two other schools have since moved to new premises.

The Department of Education will be carrying out additional detailed investigations on the 17 schools in the coming weeks.

Structural remediation work has been carried out in 14 of the initial 22 schools over the holidays, with works to commence in the remaining eight locations later this year.

The University of Limerick Hospital Group confirmed Western Building Systems was awarded the contract for the block last May and began work that month.

The block, which is a rapid build, will be fully compliant with building regulations and construction will be monitoring by engineers and other staff from HSE estates division, it said.

Speaking in Dublin on Friday, Mr Harris said the 60 extra beds being delivered in the new block would make a big difference to health service provision in the Mid-West region.

However, he said he had no role in the award of the contract to build the unit to WBS and did not wish to say anything that might jeopardise the project.

The Minister said he had been discussing with the HSE appropriate site supervision during construction and he expected this would be in place.

Western Building Systems welcomed the Minister’s comments “in relation to adopting a robust partnership approach”.

“We will work with the contracting authorities such as the HSE in respect of whatever structures they deem appropriate as we have also done up to this point in respect of the school building with the Department of Education.”

The company said it noted comments from the HSE last year when it stated “there are currently no safety concerns regarding the integrity of its buildings in relation to construction works carried out by Western Buildings Systems at this time”.

“We welcome engagement and cooperation with public contracting partners in respect of all such projects, not least to ensure we avoid a situation whereby projects which are deemed to have met contractual requirements and certified as such by Government Departments and agencies are subsequently not deemed to be.”

The total capital cost of the ULHG project will be in the region of €19.5 million, with the HSE aiming for works to be completed by the third quarter of 2020.

The Minister for Education is suing the Co Tyrone company in seven separate High Court actions lodged last year.