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Residents plead with hospital builders to halt project over virus risk


DISPUTE: The new children’s hospital is under construction at St James’s Hospital in Dublin

DISPUTE: The new children’s hospital is under construction at St James’s Hospital in Dublin

DISPUTE: The new children’s hospital is under construction at St James’s Hospital in Dublin

Builders at the new children's hospital site have been in dispute with local residents about ongoing construction work during Level 5 restrictions, amid concerns about the potential spread of Covid-19.

Residents living near the building site at St James's Hospital have appealed for work to be paused while strict lockdown restrictions are in place, saying the project should not be deemed essential because the expected completion date is almost 18 months away.

Locals are concerned builders coming to the area for work increases the risk of Covid-19 spreading, with many workers using shops, parking facilities and local amenities visited by residents. It comes as the contractor at the site, BAM Ireland, confirmed it will test staff for Covid-19 on a weekly basis.

The Department of Health included the new children's hospital in a list of essential health projects that are exempt from the current Covid-19 restrictions regarding the closure of construction sites.

However, residents in the area surrounding the site are unhappy with this decision and have made complaints to the contractor, citing that work was halted last year when restrictions first came into effect at the start of the pandemic.

Chair of Ceannt Fort Residents' Association, Joe McPartlin, said there is concern in the area about builders congregating while travelling to and from work.

"It defeats the purpose of the restrictions if the builders are travelling here, sometimes from well outside Dublin, and going in and out of the site. Some of them have to park outside people's homes on their doorsteps, and it means we are in close proximity to them on paths or in shops," he said.

"Ideally, we would like to see the project halted temporarily. That is something we say reluctantly, because any delays mean we must put up with the inconvenience caused by the project for longer - but a delay seems safer and the lesser of two evils. People are worried about the virus spreading."

BAM said it has been engaging with local residents regularly, complying with Covid-19 guidelines, and prioritising the health and safety of all stakeholders. A spokesman said the introduction of Covid-19 testing for staff will bolster these efforts.

"It is expected to identify small numbers of positive cases prior to any symptoms appearing, further reducing the risk of transmission and giving even greater security and confidence to all stakeholders involved in the project," he added.

A spokeswoman for the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board, which is responsible for overseeing building of the new hospital, said it is in ongoing communication with BAM about its responsibilities with respect to local residents about their concerns.

She said the ongoing work means the seventh and highest floor of the building will be topped out before the end of March.

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