Fears have been raised that target dates for end of major construction works – and ultimately the opening of the new national children’s hospital (NCH) – will be missed amid a delay in the delivery of updated plans for its “substantial completion”.
The Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is to put pressure on the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board (NPHDB) to confirm the expected opening date after a report at the weekend suggested it could be as late as the end of 2025.
The PAC is also to ask the NPHDB if it is considering imposing penalties on the main contractor, BAM, for the late delivery of an updated programme for “substantial completion”.
The most recent publicly known date for the expected “substantial completion” of building work is March 2024.
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A period of at least six months of commissioning work is expected once the hospital is handed over to Children’s Health Ireland (CRI).
An updated programme for substantial completion was expected from BAM by the end of February under the terms of the public works contract.
A letter to the PAC from the NPHDB outlined how the so-called employer’s representative for the project is still waiting for this programme.
The development of the new NCH has been beset with delays, some due to the Covid-19 pandemic and there have long been concerns the total cost will expected to exceed the current official sum of €1.73 billion.
At the PAC Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy said: “The longer the construction phase goes the more expensive ... this hospital is”.
She added: “I’m really concerned about that substantial completion date not being met by virtue of the fact that they [NPHDB] have not even been able to get – which is required by the contract – the substantial completion programme from the builder.”
Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley, the PAC’s chairman, said: “I would also ask the question of the hospital development board ... what are they doing in terms of using clauses in the contract in terms of penalties and is this being considered?”
The Irish Mail on Sunday reported that doctors have been told that the new NCH will not open to patients until March 2025. It also quoted an anonymous official saying it may be the end of 2025 when the hospital opens for patients.
Mr Stanley said the report was “worrying” and the PAC will write to the NPHDB seeking confirmation on whether or not it is the case that the hospital may not open until the end of 2025.
The NPHDB said on Wednesday it “is continuing to engage with the main contractor for an updated programme”.
It did not offer additional comment in response to the issues discussed at PAC on Thursday.
Earlier this week a BAM statement said the provision of the NCH “has been a complex project for all stakeholders since its inception” and the build phase is “over 80 per cent complete and continuing to progress.”
It also said: “BAM is committed to working with all stakeholders to bring the project to completion for the parents and children of Ireland.” BAM said that under the terms of the contract it “is precluded from discussing any aspect of the contract”.