Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Gurranebraher New Hospital (Cork).

asked the Minister for Health if he will indicate (1) whether satisfactory progress is being made in the building of the new hospital at Gurranebraher, Cork, which was originally intended as a fever hospital but is now proposed to be used as an orthopaedic hospital; (2) if contractors have been appointed to carry out the electrical and heating installations, and, if so, when were they appointed; (3) whether any time limits have been inserted for the completion of these contracts, and (4) whether he is aware that the building contractor can employ bricklayers and carpenters only until these sub-contracts are completed.

(1) Certain essential alterations in the plans necessitated by adaptation of buildings originally intended for a fever hospital for use as an orthopaedic hospital, and some difficulties which have arisen in appointing sub-contractors for the heating and electrical installations, have impeded progress on the building of the new hospital at Gurranebraher.

(2) The appointment of contractors for the mechanical and electrical services was approved by my Department in December last. It is expected that a formal contract for the electrical work will be entered into within the next week or so. It is hoped that the formalities in regard to the heating sub-contract will be completed without further delay. Difficulties experienced in obtaining assurances regarding the supply and delivery of certain materials in order to ensure compliance by the proposed contractor with the completion period for the contract have delayed the completion of these formalities.

(3) It is intended to insert time limits for completion of the sub-contracts to correspond with the programme for completion of the main contract.

(4) I am aware that, owing to the difficulties mentioned, the employment of tradesmen in the finishing trades must be restricted until progress has been made with the heating and electrical installations but there is every hope that, with the completion of contracts for these latter installations, it will before long be possible to extend the range of skilled employment on this scheme.

The Deputy may be assured that my Department is in constant communication with the local authority and its technical advisers in efforts to ensure that the remainder of the work will be completed as expeditiously as possible.

Will the Minister state whether a tender was accepted for the electrical contract last April by the Cork Corporation and that it has since been awaiting the sanction of his Department? Is he aware that, due to this great delay, there is a grave possibility that the cost of this contract will be practically doubled and that there is now great difficulty in obtaining supplies which were far more easily obtainable at that time?

The difficulties which arose, as I said in reply to the Deputy's question, arose largely out of our inability to get an assurance from the electrical contractor that supplies would be available to enable him to finish the work within the alloted time. Having received that assurance we were then in a position to accept the tender and to allow him to go ahead with the work.

Does the Minister suggest that the period which has elapsed since last April is a reasonable time to await for sanction?

I can assure the House that if there has been any delay it has not been exclusively the responsibility of the Department of Health.