Bam told to ‘meet its commitments’ on delayed children’s hospital

An Irish government official has accused Bam of backtracking on a promise to complete a new national children’s hospital in Dublin this year.

Eamonn Quinn, head of major capital projects in the country’s Department of Health, said the contractor should “meet its commitments” on the troubled project.

Bam was appointed in 2016 to build the National Paediatric Hospital (pictured) but costs have soared and timescales for its opening have slipped.

Appearing before the Irish parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) last Thursday, Quinn was repeatedly asked whether the facility would open this year.

He replied: “The contractor said it would be finished in October 2024. The contractor has sought to resign itself from that position. There is an element here of the contractor not standing up to its previous commitments.

“If the contractor is saying it is [now aiming to complete the job in] February 2025, then the department expects it to meet those commitments, provide a detailed programme to support that, to resource it and put the management in place, and to substantially complete in February 2025 or before.”

A €1.4bn (£1.2bn) budget allocation, made in 2019, had been exceeded by the end of 2022, according to the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board. A revised budget of €1.9bn was approved by ministers in February this year.

Phelim Devine, project director at the board, was asked how many revisions had been made to the scheme.

“There are circa 6,000 drawings on this project. Since the gross maximum price was set, they have been revised three times each on average,” he said. “There have been 23,283 drawings issued to the end of April.”

Devine also confirmed there had been circa 150 change orders given to the contractor in the past six months.

A document submitted to the committee said nine adjudications had been made to the end of April, in which Bam had claimed €63m and been awarded €2.3m. Another “significant” dispute was currently at conciliation stage, it was confirmed.

PAC committee member Marc Ó Cathasaigh of the Irish Green Party said that to “see the dates slipping away and the budgets slipping away” was “incredibly dispiriting”.

He asked: “We have a contractor playing [a] slow bicycle race – is it going to hit them in the pocket?”

David Gunning, chief executive at the New Children’s Hospital Development Company, replied: “There is a liquidated damages provision in the contract that provides for a pre-estimate of the loss the board has experienced. Once we understand the full delay, we can attempt to levy that but there is a process to go through.”

Gunning explained that the hospital was initially due for completion in August 2022. This was pushed back three months due to the impacts of the pandemic, he added.

The main new hospital building is being constructed on a disused area of the St James’s Hospital campus in southern Dublin.

Designed by architects OCMA, the oval building will be seven storeys high and contain more than 6,000 rooms.

The 160,000 square metre hospital will feature 22 operating rooms, 60 critical care beds and 93 day beds, with 14 courtyards and gardens outside.

Under the overall programme, Bam completed an outpatient and urgent care unit at Connolly, Blanchardstown, in 2019 and a similar satellite facility at Tallaght two years later.

The contractor said the build phase of the national children’s hospital was more than 92 per cent complete.

“To accommodate the level of ongoing design change and the implications this has on the delivery of our agreed work programme, the project is currently resourced at 54 per cent above the anticipated levels for this stage,” Bam said in a statement.

“Any suggestion that Bam is deliberately not committing adequate resources to the project, or is in any way slowing down delivery of the hospital, is completely untrue.”

The contractor said it had “repeatedly highlighted” the frequency of design changes as the primary cause of delay and disruption on the project.

“It remains a significant challenge, with weekly change orders or change instructions from the client occurring throughout 2024,” said the statement. “It is highly unusual to see this level of change at such an advanced stage of construction.”

The firm added: “Bam is obliged under the terms of the contract to raise any variation, including instructions, with a time or cost implication as a claim. These must be itemised on an individual, change-by-change basis.

“We are fully committed to delivering this world-class hospital for the children of Ireland within the shortest possible timeframe.”

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