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Plagued New-Build Hospital Risks Demo

Thursday, August 15, 2019

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According to a Scottish health trade union official from Unison, a nearly completed 150-million-euro (roughly $167.8 million) HLM Architect-designed children’s hospital might need to be torn down.

The Edinburgh, Scotland-based facility received the warning after last-minute inspections revealed drainage and water system issues.

Project History

Originally slated to open in 2017, the new purpose-built Royal Hospital for Children and Young People, also known as “Sick Kids,” has been reportedly experiencing what seems like a never-ending series of delays and issues.

Starting with the expected opening, doors were to remain shut as mandated by Health Secretary Jeane Freeman after inspections showed safety concerns over the building’s ventilation system.

By April 2018, The Sunday Herald reported that NHS Lothian was threating legal action against IHSL Lothian builders over the problematic ventilation issues located in various hospital wards. Months later, in November, an announcement was made that there was still no date set for the opening of the facility.

Another eight months go by, and, in July of this year, BBC News reported that the Sick Children’s Hospital was delayed by the Scottish Government due to the various ventilation issues and also a failure to meet multiple national safety standards.

The delay came just hours before 62 children’s services, patients and staff were expected to move to the new location. With the transfer scheduled to take place between July 5-15 and doors opening to new patients by July 9, critics hammered the decision as “deeply distressing,” as those involved would be waiting another “indefinite” time period for access.

“There is no greater responsibility of the NHS than to ensure the clinical safety of their patients, not least when those patients are children,” said Freeman. “In order to be absolutely sure that patient safety is delivered, I have no choice but to postpone NHS Lothian’s planned move to the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People.”

Following the news, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon launched a Health Facilities Scotland-led investigation to determine how the hospital made it to such an advanced stage without recognizing the flawed ventilation system. The investigation also planned to cover both technical and governance aspects.

In the middle of July, it was revealed that not only was the ventilation a reoccurring issue but that the facility’s basement flooded twice in 2018 due to drainage problems.

This month, further reports were revealed, indicating that NHS Lothian had been pouring millions of pounds into private consortium IHSL Lothian to fix these issues; however, senior figures at the organization were still uncertain if the work was enough.

What’s Happening Now

According to Architect’s Journal, Tom Waterson, chair of Unison’s Scottish health committee, has expressed that there is a “school of thought” that the new structure might have to be torn down before ever having been inhabited.

The reason, Waterson reports, points to the neglect of drainage issues by contractors, stated to have been identified 18 to 36 months back, when senior staff were alerted to the shortcomings. Regardless of warnings, contractors chose to keep moving forward with the construction.

However, retired architect Robert Menzies, who helped draw up original blueprints for the hospital, says that the design was flawed from the beginning. Menzies explained to The Herald that the project’s template was rushed due to a switch from being publicly funded to a non-profit distributing model, where the project would be awarded to a private consortium.

"Part of the problem was that there was too much inexperience in a lot of the teams designing departments,” said Menzies. "I said we could do with another three months—but the decision was made to get it out to bidders and leave it up to them to fix these mistakes.”

Although Menzies' firm was outbid during the bidding process, he remains baffled that not only did discovering these errors take so long, but also that the drainage systems had been placed under the structure when the hospital sits on a floodplain.

Regardless of the project’s repeated delays, Freeman assures that there are no plans to demolish the building. In fact, an NHS-led safety review was on the track for completion by September. But the delays fail to go without consequence, as The Scotsman reports that the delay will tack on another 90 million euros to the project.

To break down the audit report, the Scotsman claims an extra 80 million euros have been used for "enabling and equipment works," while 11.6 million has been given to consortium IHSL Lothian. The extra costs have pushed the lifetime price of the project towards 500 million euros.

When asked about a new guaranteed open date, Freeman responded: “It wouldn’t be fair to the staff or patients affected by this delay for me, or anyone else, to give guarantees before we have the facts from the reviews I ordered in July. Anything at this stage is purely speculation.”

Yet, in a most recent report by The Times, Freeman admitted that the children’s hospital might not open until 2021. HLM has declined to comment to various publications on the matter.


Tagged categories: Architecture; Asia Pacific; Commercial contractors; Commerial/Architectural; Construction; drainage; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Health Care/Hospitals; Latin America; Maintenance + Renovation; North America; Ongoing projects; Project Management; Projects - Commercial; Ventilation; Z-Continents

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