Yet another half billion euro has been added to the cost of the National Children’s Hospital. Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly confirmed to Cabinet on Tuesday last that the cost of the long-awaited children’s medical facility has continued to climb erratically and now stands at €2.24bn.
From the long-standing debate on its final location, the project has been hit with planning and design delays and spiralling costs since it was first mooted in 1993. Nearly 31 years later and the project, once estimated to cost up to €450m has now run over €2bn. Originally planning permission was granted in 2016 for the facility at the site on St James’ campus, and 2019, the Government reported the anticipated final total would be €1.7bn.
Blaming the Covid pandemic, brexit and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Minister Donnelly stated these factors had significantly driven up building supplies and construction costs. On Tuesday, the Government approved the enhanced capital and current budget sanctions for the NCH project of €2.24bn. Included in this is the additional Satellite Centres at Tallaght and Connolly) of €1.88bn, and a separate €360m for the integration and transition of services to the NCH, including commissioning, ICT and the Electronic Health Record.
Minister Donnelly stressed the new hospital will be a state-of-the-art medical facility, Ireland’s first fully digital public hospital, providing 300 individual, inpatient, ensuite rooms – each with its own place for a parent/guardian to sleep. In addition, it will double the current number of critical care beds to 60, and deliver 93-day beds and 20 dedicated, ensuite mental health (CAMHS) beds. Theatre capacity will be expanded to 22 theatres and procedure rooms. The building will accommodate 5 MRIs and 110 outpatient rooms.
“We all want to see this hospital open as soon as possible. Tuesday’s approval by Cabinet to increase the capital and current budget sanctions for the New Children’s Hospital project will assist in achieving the opening of what will be a world-class hospital.
“We already have two satellite centres open and delivering the new model of care. The construction of the main hospital is also well advanced at over 90 per cent completion. I acknowledge that a significant amount of money is being spent on this project, but it must not be forgotten that this is a hospital built to serve children and their families for the next 100 years. The new hospital building is unprecedented in scale and technological advancement.”
Speaking on RTÉ News at One on Tuesday, he further noted “The amount that we have put in today at €2.24bn includes the forecast from the development board as to the full and final cost of this. Certainly, in the lifetime of this Government there will be no additional memo looking for more funding,” However, the 2019 PwC report had warned that a number of risks had the potential to place further cost pressure on the approved capital budget, including contractor entitlements under the contract, the outturn of provisional sums (items for which there could be no cost certainty until their procurement closer to the end of the project), recovery of construction inflation, etc and the contractor’s right to claim for additional true costs in line with public works contract provisions.
From an estimated cost of €450m in 2017, the completion date is still in doubt. While October this year was the expected completion date, two weeks ago, the Minister expressed concern as to whether the facility would be finished. Following a meeting with the Oireachtas Health Committee, Minister Donnelly said the updated programme of works provided by BAM, the main contractor, listed a completion date of late 2024, but Mr Donnelly hinted that Spring 2025 could be the realistic completion date.
Picture National Children’s Hospital