Saturday 16 February 2019

Paediatric board accused of ‘failing catastrophically’ in hospital overspend

The price of the children’s hospital has risen massively since 2016.

The National Paediatric Hospital Development Board appeared before the health committee to address questions about the hospital overspend (Julien Behal/PA)
The National Paediatric Hospital Development Board appeared before the health committee to address questions about the hospital overspend (Julien Behal/PA)

By Cate McCurry, Press Association

The National Paediatric Hospital Development Board has been accused of “failing catastrophically” over the huge cost of the new national children’s hospital.

The price of the hospital has risen from 983 million euro in 2016 to 1.43 billion euro.

The cost per square metre of developing the hospital, which is expected to be finished in 2022, is 6,500 euro.

Board chairman Tom Costello, who appeared before the Oireachtas health committee on Wednesday, said there are lessons to be learned.

He said there was a “very significant gap” between the estimated quantities at tender stage and the quantities that are now required to build the hospital.

Mr Costello said the vision for the project was to deliver one of the finest children’s hospitals in the world.

Despite the huge increase in costs, it was confirmed there will be no extra beds in the new building at the St James’s Hospital site in Dublin.

Fianna Fail TD Stephen Donnelly said: “When it comes to the costs I believe you and the board have failed completely and catastrophically in your job and in your obligations to the State.

“When the dust is settled we won’t see any change out of much less than 2 billion.

“When this is all done, you will have overspent by somewhere between 1 and 1.5 billion euro and it could be higher.”

He said the overspend has had an impact on other projects in the health service.

“Additional hospital beds won’t happen, no new emergency cancer and cardiac facilities, no accommodation in the community for people with disabilities and no new cystic fibrosis facilities,” he added.

“That’s the reality of the incompetence and failure that I think we are seeing in terms of the financial control of this project.”

Mr Costello said that additional costs of 61 million euro related to fire requirements, including sprinklers.

He explained: “The statutory issues such as fire regulations following the Grenfell (Tower) fire and sprinklers, added 27 million to the project. Engagement with clinicians on the final design added a further 21 million.

“The impact of the nine-month extension to the programme and the additional scope added 90 million.”

He added that the paediatric team did not get enough costings in relation to mechanical and electrical services.

It's going to be extremely damaging to all capital investment. Michael Harty

“There are lessons to be learned in relation to the wisdom of pursuing cost reductions on competitive tenders and ensuring that sufficiency of tender information, in particular mechanical and electrical services at tender stage,” he added.

“This would have ensured a more accurate prediction of actual quantities and costs at tender stage and to a large extent it would have reduced the underestimation of costs.”

Michael Harty, Independent TD and chairman of the committee, said it is an “unprecedented overrun” of one of the largest infrastructure developments in Ireland.

He added: “The consequence is not confined to the children’s hospital. These cost overruns will have impact in all capital investment in our health service including the national maternity hospital, the national forensic hospital, the primary care programme and the replacement of equipment.

“It’s going to be extremely damaging to all capital investment.”

The hospital will have 6,000 rooms and will be fully digital but the quantities of equipment increased more than the board had anticipated.

Mr Donnelly added: “When this is finished the cost per bed will be – to the Irish – twice the cost of the most expensive hospital built anywhere in the world.”

Press Association

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