Building firm hired by HSE six months after 'faults' allegations
Western Building Systems wins contract for 60-bed Limerick facility
The HSE has awarded a €14m contract to extend the most overcrowded hospital in the country to the construction firm at the centre of a school building safety controversy - six months after those concerns became public.
The issues around structural faults in a number of schools, which were part of construction projects by Western Building Systems, first came to light last October and the matter has since escalated with the Minister for Education suing the Co Tyrone company in seven separate High Court actions.
Yesterday, the University Hospital Limerick group confirmed HSE Estates had awarded the tender for a 60-bed ward block to the company in May after starting an e-tender procurement process in July 2018.
"The successful bidder was entitled to bid for the contract and met all the contract criteria," said a spokesman.
"The detailed criteria set out that the project would be a rapid build and, as such, specialist work of this nature would have precluded some contractors from bidding.
"The evaluation criteria for the tender required that the design-and-build contractor, their nominated design team and sub-contractors met specifically selected stringent criteria for qualifications and experience, turnover and performance bond requirements, programme and resources and project quality execution plans.
"In addition, they were required to submit a detailed design, including specification and drawings which met the tender performance specification, exemplar design and approved statutory compliance certification."
The extension to the hospital - which suffers the worst level of trolley crises winter and summer - is part of a €19.5m ward extension which is scheduled to be completed in April 2020 and ready for the following winter.
Health Minister Simon Harris spoke to HSE Estates yesterday and was told there would be site supervision.
He said because of the rules around independent tendering he had no role in choosing the contractor.
The HSE confirmed the builder was not involved in constructing any other healthcare project.
It previously worked on Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, and Beaumont Hospital, Dublin.
The hospital group said the "60-bed ward block at University Hospital Limerick will be fully compliant with the building regulations".
The HSE has appointed a technical adviser team which is supervising the contractor's design and construction works and which will ensure compliance with the contract requirements.
"In addition, the local HSE Estates staff, including engineers and clerk of works, will oversee and monitor the construction project."
A spokeswoman for Western Building Systems said it was a 35-year-old business that "continues to be awarded and deliver important public and private contracts in Ireland and the UK".
She said: "We note comments from the HSE last year when it stated 'there are currently no safety concerns regarding the integrity of its buildings in relation to construction works carried out by Western Buildings Systems at this time'.
"We will work with the contracting authorities such as the HSE in respect of whatever structures they deem appropriate as we have also done up to this point in respect of the school building with the Department of Education.
"In parallel, we will continue to engage with the Department of Education to ensure the independent report it promised into the schools building programme is delivered with a firm deadline for the publication."