Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said there is “no agreed figure” as to what the final cost of the new national children’s hospital will be.
Mr Donnelly told the Dáil on Tuesday “nobody has a figure” and he would not provide an estimated figure as he didn’t want to prejudice negotiations between the contractor and the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board.
Mr Donnelly was responding to Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, who said the HSE was now warning about a “rising and unpredictable cost” in respect of the hospital.
“It is of a such a scale that it will eat up a third of the Budget or perhaps more and puts a question mark over other much needed infrastructure,” Ms McDonald said.
“It seems that the Minister for Health has a figure, he will not share that figure. Furthermore, he won’t go before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to discuss this matter.
“I think that’s the wrong move. I think that’s most unhelpful, these are vast sums of money on a public project.”
The PAC was told last week the delivery of updated plans for the “substantial completion” of construction work on the new hospital is more than two months late.
Under the terms of the public works contract the main building contractors, BAM, were due to have provided an updated programme for the “substantial completion” of the hospital by the end of February.
However, the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board – the State body overseeing the development of the new NCH – told the PAC that the so-called employer’s representative for the project is still awaiting the updated programme.
The development of the new hospital has been beset with delays, some due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr Donnelly said it was known for some time the cost of the hospital would go above €1.4 billion.
“There is an intensive negotiation going on between the contractor and the development board,” he said.
“The sums of money involved are very large. I don’t have a figure and Government [don’t]. Nobody has a figure because there has been no resolution to a lot of those [claims].
“In some cases, undoubtedly the contractor has legitimate claims and those claims should be respected.
“In other cases the very clear advice I have is there are claims in for very sizeable amounts of money, which the development board and the State have flatly refused and don’t believe we have to pay.”
Mr Donnelly added there was “no agreed figure” and the reason for not providing an estimated amount was “because we don’t want to prejudice this negotiation”.
“The contractors would like nothing more than the State to say ‘well we think we’re going to have to pay x amount of money’ because that would prejudice the negotiation,” he said.
“We have to leave the board in the strongest possible position to negotiate on behalf of the State.”
The most recent publicly known date for the expected “substantial completion” of building work is March 2024 with a period of at least six months of commissioning work expected once the hospital is handed over to Children’s Health Ireland (CRI).