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Extra cash needed for Belfast maternity hospital build after Covid-19 hold-up

Construction was temporarily halted in March due to the pandemic.

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The Royal Maternity Hospital building site in Belfast (Niall Carson/PA)

The Royal Maternity Hospital building site in Belfast (Niall Carson/PA)

The Royal Maternity Hospital building site in Belfast (Niall Carson/PA)

Belfast Health Trust is seeking extra cash to build its new maternity hospital after construction was halted by coronavirus.

The site was closed for around a month following the pandemic lockdown in March.

The project had been expected to cost £74 million, according to figures established in 2017.

A total of £1.5 million was set aside as part of the original contract for unforeseen contingency expenses.

The Trust has written to Department of Health requesting an additional contingency upliftBelfast Health and Social Care Trust document

A Belfast Health and Social Care Trust document said: “The Trust has written to Department of Health requesting an additional contingency uplift.”

Its report was sent to the department in April this year.

The trust added: “It has been agreed that the submission of this contingency paper would allow the department to approve an increased sum for the project and to allow the fuller assessment of the likely outcome position of the project in the form of an addendum.

“The Trust is currently preparing this addendum paper.”

The major development to overhaul maternity services is due to be completed in two years’ time.

The trust added: “Significant risks remain on the register commensurate with a scheme of this size and complexity.”

Due to Covid-19 circumstances, the main contractor issued a notice on March 17 advising of restrictions for all visitors to the site, a document published by the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust said.

On March 25, the contractor closed the site and reopened in the week commencing April 27.

Any delay in construction has significant cost implications and we are working with the Department of Health to ensure we have sufficient funding in the event of further unforeseen delaysBelfast Trust spokesman

The trust said: “The contractor proposes a small number of operatives on site (approx 40) carrying out essential works to prepare the site for larger numbers to recommence in the near future.”

The new hospital is to be located within the main Royal Victoria Hospital site in West Belfast.

Graham-Bam Healthcare Partnership, a joint venture between Graham Construction and Bam Ireland, commenced construction in October 2017.

A spokesman for the Belfast Trust said: “Covid-19 has caused a considerable delay to construction projects within the Belfast Trust as contractors involved in non Covid-19 related work suspended all non-essential projects from March in line with Government guidance.

“As the NI Executive and UK Government continue to ease lockdown, we have been working closely with our contractors to recommence work on these projects in line with social distancing guidance whilst ensuring the safety of staff, patients and all visitors to our sites.

“Inevitably, any delay in construction has significant cost implications and we are working with the Department of Health to ensure we have sufficient funding in the event of further unforeseen delays.

“The new Maternity Hospital, when completed, will significantly contribute to improved health outcomes for our service users, with increased bed capacity and state of the art delivery rooms.”

PA