THE Chief Minister has said she is confident that work on a ‘deliverable and affordable’ scheme to replace the Island’s ageing General Hospital will begin during the current political term – but admitted that the government was not close to sharing a figure for the total cost.
After 11 months in office, and with three years to go before the next election, Deputy Kristina Moore and fellow ministers have published the results of a draft feasibility study into the project, which will be presented in July following a month of intense consultation.
Deputy Moore said ministers were determined to learn lessons from previous schemes, one of which involved not issuing a figure for the total budget at this stage.
She said: ‘Most bodies don’t give details of their budget away before they go out to tender. We have to learn from the experience of the past and why previous projects have hit the rocks.’
Instead it seems likely that proposed funding for the first stage of the multi-site scheme for new healthcare facilities will be included within the next Government Plan, which will be presented to States Members in late summer and debated before the end of the year.
Deputy Moore added: ‘Ministers are confident that this scheme is more deliverable and affordable than previous ones, and we feel really hopeful that this will be the term where spades go into the ground and we get healthcare facilities under construction.’
Part of the Chief Minister’s confidence that the project would be more affordable than the most recent scheme – a single-site project for Overdale costed at £804 million – stemmed, she said, from the intention to use ‘modern methods of construction’.
Some elements of the project would incorporate an element of pre-fabrication, similar to that used in residential schemes such as The Limes in St Helier, Deputy Moore added, which would be both quicker and cheaper.
Outlining the details of the multi-site proposal, Infrastructure Minister Tom Binet conceded that there would be some duplication across the two principal sites – Overdale and Gloucester Street – although he contended that this would be outweighed by the benefits of resilience and flexibility.
He denied that duplication would be a significant cost, saying that it would be kept to a bare minimum. He added that he was ‘very comfortable’ with the preferred option because it had been based on ‘sound evidence’.
However, he admitted that the reception from States Members at a briefing yesterday had not been ‘wildly enthusiastic’.
‘I was expecting that,’ he said. ‘I think people are weary ten years on. Would I want to be in the position I am now? Certainly not, because we should have been where we are a decade ago, but I can’t change that.’
He added: ‘It is impossible to have detailed costings yet. Today was the launch of a strategic outline case. Remember, this includes health facilities that were not included in the Our Hospital project so direct like-for-like comparisons are tricky.
‘The preferred option delivers an acute hospital, sooner and with less impact on existing patients. It delivers all the facilities that were missing in Our Hospital proposals, including rehab and step-down care, and does so without the need to make changes to Westmount Road and the Jersey Bowling Club.’