Cost overrun on children's hospital 'will cause delays to other projects'

The spiralling cost of building the new National Children’s Hospital could result in invoices totalling €100m more than expected next year, the Irish Independent has learned.

As Taoiseach Leo Varadkar warned that other projects could be delayed as a result of the overruns, it has emerged the impact will be felt sooner than many expected.

The children’s hospital 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 almost €1.4bn.

Health Minister Simon Harris will today brief his Cabinet colleagues on the reasons behind the increase, including price inflation in the construction sector.

The rising bill is understood to be causing alarm in Government circles, with Mr Varadkar admitting to being “very concerned”.

The hospital, already the most expensive paediatric facility in the world, has been plagued by setbacks.

It was originally promised for late 2016 and then for early 2018, but now has an opening date of late 2022.

The Taoiseach visited the construction site of one of two satellite centres for the hospital in Blanchardstown yesterday.

He said there was always an expectation that costs on the main campus would rise – but the latest increase was “way beyond what we had ever anticipated”.

Mr Varadkar, a former health minister, said the reality was that because of the need to find additional money for the hospital, “other projects will, as a consequence, be delayed and that’s a real shame”.

“The consequence of running over budget with a project means that other projects get delayed and that is not a good position to be in,” he said.

Government sources last night indicated that Mr Varadkar did not have any specific projects in mind.

The hospital is just one major project in the National Development Plan, which also commits the Government to funding the M20 motorway between Cork and Limerick, a metro to Dublin Airport, upgrades costing €350m to Dublin, Cork and Shannon Foynes ports, and 12,000 new social housing homes by 2027 costing €11.6bn.

However, it is understood plans for the new maternity hospital will not be among the projects facing delays.

One source confirmed that up to €100m may be needed to keep the children’s hospital on track next year.

This was not factored into the Budget 2019 allocation for the Department of Health. Building started last year on the campus in St James’s Hospital. A spokesperson for Mr Harris said the hospital was the “most complex and important public capital project that this country has ever embarked on”.

He said the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee would be invited to visit the site and it had been made “clear to the Children’s Hospital Group that they must make every effort to mitigate the increased cost”.

The hospital will incorporate Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin and Children’s University Hospital Temple Street and the paediatric service at Tallaght. It will also care for sick babies and children from Northern Ireland.

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