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Construction at the NCH last year. The Journal

Tánaiste concedes 'real difficulty' surrounding cost of National Children’s Hospital

Responding to a question in the Dáil, Micheál Martin said the last thing you should do with any public contract is “start putting costs out there”.

THE TÁNAISTE HAS conceded that a “real difficulty” exists around the cost of the National Children’s Hospital (NCH), but said all involved “need to stick with the process”.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin was responding to a question by Sinn Féin’s health spokesperson David Cullinane during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil today. 

Cullinane asked if the Tánaiste could provide a final date of completion for the hospital alongside a final projected cost, but the Tánaiste refused to be drawn on an answer to either question.

Cullinane said the delivery of the hospital began as a “fiasco” and has “descended into a farce”.

Just 27 out of the hospital’s 3,000 rooms have been completed so far

The Tánaiste acknowledged the ongoing conflict between the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board (NPHDB) and the developer of the project, BAM.

Yesterday, David Gunning, the chief officer of the NPHDB told the Oireachtas Health Committee that it is “unacceptable” that BAM has not issued a contract compliant programme and has not provided progress reports for March, April, May and June of this year.

The Tánaiste noted that this conflict, alongside delays from Covid-19, have pushed out the expected completion date and added that the last thing you should do with any public contract is “start putting costs out there”.

He said that the cost claims made by the contractors should be contested to ensure there is value for money for the taxpayer and if that means delays “so be it”.

The Tánaiste added: “We cannot cut corners”.

922cabinet-meetings Tánaiste Micheál Martin

The NPHDB told members of the Oireachtas Health Committee yesterday that the developer BAM is “not providing sufficient resources to deliver the hospital”.

BAM has strongly refuted this claim, telling the Business Post that it “categorically rejects any allegations of under-performance and under-resourcing”.

It said its work on the project was “fully resourced” and that any suggestion it is  “deliberately not committing adequate resources to the project or is in any way slowing down delivery of the hospital is untrue.”

The contractor pointed to “persistent changes” to the design of the hospital as a cause of the delays.

According to the most recent progress report from BAM, the completion date is set to be in May 2024 – 21 months beyond the original contracted completion date of August 2022.

Cullinane said today that he has “no confidence” that the hospital will be open in 2024 and that he thinks instead that it is a “certainty” it will be 2025. 

Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty put it to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar during Leaders’ Questions yesterday that the hospital is set to become “one of the most expensive in the world” with costs rising from €650 million to €2 billion. 

In response the Taoiseach said: “When people use the €2 billion figure, it is used in a misleading way.”

He said the hospital is 85% complete and the focus of works “continues to be on internal fit-out and commissioning of mechanical and electrical services”.

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