Wednesday 16 January 2019

Cost of new national children's hospital spirals to €1.3bn

An artist’s impression of the new children’s hospital. Photo: PA
An artist’s impression of the new children’s hospital. Photo: PA

Fionnán Sheahan

THE cost of the new national children’s hospital has risen by almost a third, Independent.ie has learned.

The building on the campus in St James's Hospital was supposed to cost in the region of €1bn. But the price of the facility has now risen to over €1.3bn.

The hospital was already the most expensive paediatric facility in the world.

The Department of Health is understood to have been informed of the €300m increase in spending on the project by the board of the new hospital.

Health Minister Simon Harris will brief ministers on the rising costs at next week’s Cabinet meeting and explain the reasons behind the overrun.

The opening of the new national children's hospital has already been delayed and it will not be ready until late 2022.

It was due to be ready in mid-2021 after years of being beset by setbacks.

The hospital was originally promised for late 2016 and then for early 2018, but delays and dispute over the location at St James's in Dublin's south inner city saw costs balloon to €1bn.

Vision: Frank McGuinness, ICT director for the Children's Hospital Group, beside a 3D model of the new hospital. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Vision: Frank McGuinness, ICT director for the Children's Hospital Group, beside a 3D model of the new hospital. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Building started last year on the campus in St James's Hospital. The cost of the hospital already increased during delays in choosing a site.

Previously, the spiralling price tag was blamed on soaring construction costs, a longer than anticipated planning, procurement and approvals process, and the tenders coming in at a higher than forecast price.

Selecting the site of the children's hospital has been dogged by more than a decade of opposition, with the original plan for the Mater having to be shelved after €40m was spent on it and the continued warnings from some campaigners the inner city site will run into traffic and access problems.

Plan

The hospital will amalgamate three existing children’s hospitals and two satellite centres, housing paediatric outpatient and urgent care centres, in Tallaght and Connolly Hospitals will open first.

The state-of-the-art facility will incorporate Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin and Children's University Hospital Temple Street and the paediatric service at Tallaght.

The new Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital will also be built on the campus once the children's facility is finished so adult, paediatric and maternity services are all being planned for the one location. It will also care for sick babies and children from Northern Ireland.

The new hospital will have 380 single rooms with en-suite bathrooms and a bed for a parent, including 60 critical care rooms incorporating paediatric and neonatology intensive care/high dependency, and 20 child and adolescent mental health beds which will be open to patients with eating disorders and acute conditions.

There will be a "rooftop rainbow garden" offering what the planners said will be a secure and sheltered environment beside wards.

A Children's Research and Innovation Centre, funded entirely through philanthropy, will also be built at St James's giving staff the chance to study, evaluate and improve the services.

The campus will be home to a hospital school, underground parking, specialist therapy and play facilities, 93 daycare bays, 22 operating theatres and procedure rooms, and 122 consulting rooms. The A&E will have 12 short stay observation beds and 36 assessment bays.

The Department of Health said the two smaller facilities will offer children consultant-led care, observation beds, diagnostics and secondary outpatient services including rapid access to general paediatric clinics, developmental checks and multidisciplinary care for chronic stable conditions.

The total cost for the children's hospitals and the two other units was expected to be €1.07bn. Back in 2014, it was originally expected to cost €650m.

But that figure did not include equipment, educational facilities, shops or car parking - which are estimated to run to €140m. Another €110 million euro is to be spent on energy, clinical decontamination and facilities management.

And €183 million euro has been added to the cost from construction inflation, planning and procurement delays and higher tendering costs.

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