Tuesday 22 October 2019

Children's hospital building firm BAM will 'continue to look for additional funds'

Fred Barry: The development board chair says the contractor is still looking for additional funding. Photo: Tom Burke
Fred Barry: The development board chair says the contractor is still looking for additional funding. Photo: Tom Burke
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

The building firm constructing the new €1.4bn National Children's Hospital is continuing to look for additional funding - and is likely to continue to do so until the project is finished, it was claimed.

Fred Barry, chair of the National Paediatric Development Board overseeing the controversial project, disclosed the extra demands as he provided a progress update in the wake of the public outcry after it ballooned in cost to €1.4bn.

One report has put the final bill as high as €1.7bn. Mr Barry told the Oireachtas Health Committee yesterday there has been a "considerable amount of claims from BAM" for additional money and also for extensions of time.

"It's the nature of the industry," he told TD Michael Harty, chair of the committee.

BAM was probably a "bit more active" in submitting claims than other contractors, he added.

Mr Barry repeated his fears that construction inflation could push up the cost of the hospital to be built on the campus of St James's Hospital even further.

It is also facing the risk of delays in meeting important milestones, although the plan is to have it completed by late 2022.

Delays would also add to the cost, he added.

"Some of the work is behind the original programme, some of it isn't; there probably isn't any one single reason for this, it's a very big job."

He added: "They are getting our attention, I wouldn't like to be alarmist about it, it's quite early in that phase of the construction."

Meanwhile, the first satellite centre linked to the new national children's hospital will start treating patients on July 31 but its full operation will need to be phased in.

The paediatric outpatient and urgent care centre at Connolly Hospital is now built and being made ready, Eilish Hardiman, chief executive of Children's Health Ireland, said.

"The majority of recruitment for the centre is well advanced, with most doctors, nurses, health and social care professional and administrative staff recruited and they have start dates over the forthcoming weeks and months," she told the committee.

It will include an eight-hour observation unit.

Meanwhile, it emerged that the private suite area for consultants in the new hospital will have its own internal entrance door.

The consultants' rooms will be used by parents of children who pay privately through health insurance or out-of-pocket fees to see a specialist.

Ms Hardiman confirmed to the committee that this section would have its own internal door.

However, she said the outpatients section for public patients would also have a separate entrance.

Ms Hardiman was questioned by Fianna Fáil TD Stephen Donnelly who instanced the cases of two children, one public and the other private.

Both children need to see the same consultant but "one child whose parents cannot afford to pay goes through one door" after a wait of two years.

"Another child whose parents can pay will go through another door and see the doctor in potentially two days."

Ms Hardiman said the hospital had a legal remit to provide the private facilities to consultants due to their contract. She pointed out the aim of Sláintecare was to end the public and private divide.

Irish Independent

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