Fresh delays and millions in extra costs for children’s hospital revealed

Documents reveal hospital board will need €15m to defend against 'exceptional' claims by contractors

Ongoing work at the site of the national children’s hospital in Dublin city centre. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Ongoing work at the site of the national children’s hospital in Dublin city centre. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

Fresh delays to the national children’s hospital and new concerns around the budget of the project were discussed in private meetings between senior Government and HSE chiefs.

Top officials were told in October that the board overseeing the project was trying to find “realistic construction timelines” after a new programme was given by the builders BAM, which the board believes is “not in line with what is in the contract”.

Minutes of the Government and HSE oversight group, seen by The Irish Times, also reveal that because of an “exceptional level of claims” for additional costs being made by contractors, the project’s construction contingency fund is “now not sufficient for a project of this scale and complexity”.

The National Paediatric Hospital Development Board (NPHDB), which oversees the construction of the project, said it would need €15 million to defend itself against the high level of ongoing claims being made by contractors.

It has also emerged that the builder of the project, BAM, has questioned the “validity” of an instruction by the board to proceed with the second phase of the build. The creation of a specific communications plan to deal with the issue was discussed.

The HSE was due to receive an update on this issue at its oversight group in November, but a HSE source said the oversight group never met.

An extract from the documents seen by the Irish Times.
An extract from the documents seen by the Irish Times.
An extract from the documents seen by the Irish Times.
Part of the documents seen by the Irish Times.

Delays

On the issue of delays, the minutes show that BAM has reported delays of 88 days at a Tallaght satellite centre which was scheduled to open later this year. A 131-day delay for the facade of the main hospital building and a 58-day delay for the structural frame of the hospital were also notified to senior officials. The “potential cost implications” were to be advised later.

A spokeswoman for the NPHDB said BAM had “provided a number of different draft timelines for construction”.

“They are still being reviewed, and there is currently no change to the programme schedule. Any delivery outside of the timelines agreed under the contract could potentially be a matter for dispute resolution, and as such we are not in a position to comment at this time.”

However, she added that the board believed “there is sufficient time within the construction programme for the contractor to make up any time lost to date”.

While the board did inform meetings of the Oireachtas Health Committee and Public Accounts Committee that the main contractor was behind schedule, specific details are set out in the minutes for the first time.

Official channels

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said “while the Minister is kept up to date on progress with the project through these official channels, specific details on claims are a matter for the NPHDB”.

The cost of building the facility at St James’s Hospital in Dublin had increased from €987 million in 2017 to over €1.4 billion, The Irish Times revealed in December 2018.

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.

The NPHDB said it was currently operating within the allocated budget.