With most of the individuals behind the new hospital plan being ousted in the election... What will happen to the project?
Planning permission has been given and funding agreed, so controversial new hospital looks is on course to be built – but the new Assembly could still have a significant say on how much the project will cost.
In a day of great change on Wednesday, the political head of the project thus far, Lyndon Farnham, retained his seat but many of his former colleagues on the hospital’s ‘Political Oversight Group’ did not.
John Le Fondré, Lindsay Ash, Rowland Huelin and Hugh Raymond were all ousted, while the political capital of leading critic Kristina Moore was strengthened with a poll-topping performance in St. Ouen, St. Peter and St. Mary.
Deputy Moore is now a contender to be the next Chief Minister.
Meanwhile, four of the six candidates associated with the ‘Friends of Our New Hospital’ - a campaign group which believes that the States has chosen "the wrong hospital, in the wrong place at the wrong cost" - were elected.
They are St. Saviour poll-topper Tom Binet, Rose Binet, Andy Howell and St. Clement runner-up Barbara Ward.
Deputy Moore, who chaired the Future Hospital Review Panel, has called for a review of the hospital project.
In her election manifesto, she said: “Although a planning application has been passed, the Inspector did not take into account important issues such as value for money and the timing of borrowing to build.
“Given the significant financial pressure of inflation which will impact upon every aspect of our lives, I do not believe it would be wise for the island to borrow such a large amount of money now.
“With £100m already spent there is sufficient information available to revert to a dual-site option without delaying the project.”
The Friends of Our New Hospital are also calling for a review, although specifically into its cost.
Pictured: Campaign group Friends of Our New Hospital believe that it will cost more than the £804.5m agreed by the Assembly.
The campaign group’s interim chair, Peter Funk, said: “A number of things the Government has previously said have now gone out of the window: the hope that the £756m that it will borrow and invest in the ‘rainy day fund’ will generate a 6-7% return, which will pay for the interest and help pay for some of the project; getting a bond at 2.5% or less; and the fact that the project will cost £804.5m.
“Unfortunately, the markets have retracted by 20% since the beginning of the year and costs have risen significantly so those aspirations are now over.
“That is why we think the project needs to be re-evaluated.”
During the election, Ian Gorst has also said he would support a short review – completing no later than August – on the costs. He has been a longstanding critic of the amount of borrowing that the previous Assembly committed to.
Reform, with its ten elected Members, has said that Jersey cannot afford to waste more time and money on the new hospital project.
“We do not regard the Overdale site as being ideal,” the party said in its manifesto. “But rather than committing to spend tens of millions of pounds on consultants to restart the new hospital project for the third time (as some are proposing), we will instead focus on delivering healthcare services, getting waiting lists down and supporting our healthcare professionals.
“We believe that with restraint and proper political oversight, the capital expenditure for the new hospital can be managed more efficiently.”
Deputy Farnham is unsurprisingly keen for the project to continue without interruption.
“I always knew that leading the controversial hospital project was a poison challenge,” he said on getting elected.
“But the Government has been messing around for the last ten years and I fully appreciate that no site or design would be universally accepted.
“I knew that I was risking my political career but it had to be done and I delivered it.
“I believe that the majority of islanders want the States to get on and build the hospital, but we need to make sure that, as it is built, it is carefully audited and money is well spent.
“Any further delays will increase the cost. I think the new Assembly will want to monitor the project but I would advise against further delays. We are seeing hyper-inflation in the supply of commodities and any delay could add considerable cost to the project.”
The Our Hospital project is in the ‘pre-contract services agreement phase’ – meaning that a preferred contractor, a joint venture between local firm ROC and hospital-building specialists FCC, has been appointed and an initial contract, worth around £30m, to get the site ready for site work to start has been signed.
Work to strip out the former Les Quennevais School, which will become a temporary home for services currently at Overdale, happened earlier in the year and the refit work is scheduled to start soon.
The main contract for the actual hospital is due to be signed later this year once final agreements are in place and new Government formed.
In the meantime, the project team continues to work through the planning consent conditions imposed last month by Environment Minister John Young, who did not fight Wednesday’s election.
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