Board given new date for children’s hospital completion - but will not reveal it for months

A spokeswoman for the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board confirmed that BAM have now sent a new programme of works

A new timeline for completion of the National Children’s Hospital (NCH) has been given to board overseeing the project - but the date will not be revealed for three months, it has emerged.

After months of controversy, the main contractor on the site, BAM, has told the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board (NPHDB) when they expect to have the project finished. The Irish Times revealed earlier this week that board members fear the final date for completion will slip beyond May 2024.

In a statement to The Irish Times, a spokeswoman for the NPHDB said the board will not be revealing what they have been told by BAM for three months.

“An updated programme has been delivered by BAM to the NPHDB. Due to the level of complexity and detail involved with a programme of this nature, it will now be subject to a review by the Employer’s Representative to determine whether or not the programme is compliant.


“This review process could take up to three months to complete. The NPHDB will not be commenting on anything included within that programme, including the proposed substantial completion date, until such time as it is confirmed by the Employer’s Representative that the programme is compliant.”

It comes after Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe said that the development board are taking “all the steps” needed to ensure it is completed and to challenge any additional costs.

With ongoing suggestions that the cost of the new hospital will top €2 billion, Mr Donohoe said that what he could do as Minister for Public Expenditure in terms of keeping the costs under control is to “fully” support the NBHDB in its work.

The NCH project has beset with delays and spiraling costs.

This week, further disputes between the NPHDB and the main contractors BAM emerged, with minutes of meetings showing board members complaining that BAM had instructed personnel not to talk to them, or to a team of investigators brought in to run the rule over the site.

It is set to cost at least €1.73 billion, including the main site at St James’s Hospital and two satellite centres in Blanchardstown and Tallaght. This includes the €1.433 billion in construction costs set by the then Fine Gael-led minority government in 2018.

Another €300 million is expected to be spent on the integration and transfer of service from the existing three children’s hospitals in Dublin as well as information technology and commissioning costs.

There are concerns that the costs will exceed €2 billion.

There have been disputes between the NPHDB and BAM which has made claims for additional costs running into hundreds of millions of euro.

Mr Donohoe declined to say if he accepted the cost will be more than €2 billion, saying he would not comment on estimates as “that would be counterproductive given the efforts that are underway by the board of the the national children’s hospital on behalf of the taxpayer.”

At a press conference on the Government’s Mid-year Expenditure Report, he said: “l fully support the work that the board for the [NCH] currently have under way.

“They are taking all the steps that are needed to have the hospital completed and also to challenge any additional costs on behalf of the taxpayer to, even at this point, ensure that when this project is built, it is built at a cost that is - while still high – we know it’s going to be a very expensive hospital but it’s going to deliver really important healthcare for our country.”

He added: “At this point, we’re taking all the steps that we can to contain the cost for the taxpayer.”

Mr Donohoe said there are many learnings from the project, one being that the Government is now “far more open” about the range of costs that could be incurred on so-called mega-projects like the National Broadband Plan (NBP) and Metrolink.

In the case of the NBP, he said while this approach did lead to a focus on what the most expensive cost of the project could be, “it’s the right way to go”.

Speaking on Wednesday, Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane said it is “very clear to everybody that relationships between the board overseeing the project and the main contractor Bam are at an all-time low.

“The board are alleging that the contractor is not deploying sufficient resources to complete the project. BAM are saying that they have been given thousands of design changes and all of this is delaying the project and while this happening, we know the Cabinet will be signing off on hundreds of millions more of taxpayers’ money.”

He called on Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly to be “proactively involved”.

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times