THE ill-fated national children's hospital has suffered another major delay with proposals to submit planning permission this autumn shelved until next spring.
A spokesman for the hospital – to be built on the campus of St James's Hospital – confirmed that the appointment of a design team is behind schedule, forcing a revision of its original timetable.
"The development board had previously hoped to have a design team appointed by April, with the target of submitting planning permission in the autumn.
"However, the process of design team procurement is now expected to be completed in June. Once the design team is in place design development can begin in order to submit planning permission in February 2015," he said.
The development board had previously set a target to begin transferring services from the three existing children's hospitals, which will amalgamate, to the new facility by the end of 2018.
Referring to this target John Pollock, project director for the new children's hospital, said yesterday: "One of our primary goals in this process is to deliver the best value for money for what is a vitally important public project.
"We are confident that by investing the maximum time possible in detailed project planning and by opting for the most appropriate procurement approach, we will reap the benefits as we move on site in August 2015 and work towards commencing transition of services at the end of 2018."
The delay in submitting planning permission is the latest setback for the hospital, originally to be ready by 2012.
A spokesman for the board defended the delay, saying it "reflects the need for very rigorous financial evaluation prior to finalising the shortlist. The shortlisted architectural teams were announced on March 10.
"It also reflects a very robust and detailed approach to the preparation of the design tender documents in order to ensure that they build in value engineering, look at ways of delivering the project as quickly as possible, provide for a more collaborative approach and contain the required flexibility," he added.
"This process is of necessity time-consuming, in order to ensure the documentation is robust – it's essential to get the detail right now at project-planning stage, so as to minimise problems later in the project when it is on site, subject to planning permission,
"On March 10 the board announced the shortlisted architectural teams. On March 24 tender documents were issued to these and to all the shortlisted bidders in all disciplines – including engineering, planning and so on.
"The date for return of tenders is May 7 and following the necessary period of evaluation and assessment, the full design team is expected to be appointed in June," he added.
Fianna Fail Whip Sean O Fearghail, who revealed the delay, said he was calling on the Health Minister to clarify the timeframe for the delivery of the hospital.
"It has been plagued by delays for years and I am extremely concerned that the new timeline for delivery of the hospital on the site of St James's Hospital may not now be met," he said.