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10 year delay Children’s Hospital delayed to 2024 and no update on €1.4bn cost

Final cost of long-running project still unknown but is likely to exceed the current estimate of €1.4bn

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The construction site of the new National Children's Hospital in Dublin

The construction site of the new National Children's Hospital in Dublin

The construction site of the new National Children's Hospital in Dublin

The new National Children’s Hospital will not now be ready until the second half of 2024 – 10 years after its original promised opening date.

The final cost of the project is still unknown, but the delays look set to push the final bill far beyond its current estimate of €1.4bn.

The ill-fated hospital has been beset with delays and rows over its location on the site of St James’s Hospital in Dublin. Its completion was first touted as 2014 by then taoiseach Brian Cowen in 2009.

The building will now not be completed until December 2023 and won’t open for more than six months after that.

The original contract was for completion in August 2022, the Oireachtas Health Committee was told yesterday.

The most recent projected cost was put at €1.4bn, but no updated figures are available.

Health officials admitted delays cost money and that is the “nature of the beast”.

David Gunning, chief officer of the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board, also warned the new target date was not guaranteed and was dependent on no delays being caused to supplies by Brexit or the pandemic.

“The global pandemic, Covid-19, has disrupted the construction sector and all its supply chains both nationally and internationally,” he said.

“Unfortunately, the project has not been immune to this.

“In 2020, both the construction site of the new children’s hospital and Children’s Hospital Ireland at Tallaght were closed for a period following the arrival of Covid-19 to
Ireland.

“In 2021, the sites remained open as essential sites during the 2021 Level 5 lockdown.”

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Asked by Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane about the estimated cost, Mr Gunning was unable to provide an update on the original estimate of €1.4bn.

He said about 900 claims had been submitted by BAM, the contractor, and a handful had been settled. Fifteen have gone to conciliation and nine were settled at a cost of €2.5m.

Claims are being parked for the moment, although more claims are being submitted.

A moratorium on the claims, currently scheduled until the end of July, has now been agreed to concentrate on the completion of the building.

Asked by Social Democrat TD Róisín Shortall when they would be addressed, Mr Gunning said many had moved into conciliation.

Ms Shortall said a lot of claims were being stored up for the future and the cost of the hospital would be a runaway train for the taxpayer.

Mr Gunning said all claims would be defended robustly.

He told the committee the new paediatric outpatient and urgent care centre at Connolly Hospital was already fully operational. It was opened in July 2019.

“It is a priority for the board and indeed all stakeholders to open the paediatric outpatient and urgent care centre at Tallaght in 2021 and we are pleased to report that we are on target to do that.

“Construction work on the centre is nearing an end, with a substantial completion date scheduled for September 2021. It will then be handed over to Children’s Health Ireland to open for services after an eight-week period of operational commissioning and equipping.”

Asked whether the board had confidence in BAM, Mr Gunning said the level of confidence was “growing but we are not there yet”. People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny said he could see the costs spiralling to €2bn. He asked Mr Gunning for his estimate of the final cost.

Mr Gunning said all the costs were subject to continuous scrutiny and that was being provided to the Department of Health and the HSE. Delay was the biggest cost driver.

“We will not allow the costs to get out of control. The best mitigation is to get the hospital built as soon as possible.”

Eilish Hardiman, chief executive of Children’s Health Ireland, which oversees the three existing children’s hospitals, said the HSE cyber-attack had had a material impact on their IT systems and the ability to deliver services to patients and families.

“Patient information from manual records over the past seven weeks are being uploaded and it will take weeks to get back to our starting point in May,” she said.

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