I welcome the opportunity to share with the House the progress being made on the new children's hospital project. As Deputies will be aware, this project is the largest capital investment project ever undertaken in healthcare in Ireland. It includes a state-of-the-art hospital being developed on the campus shared with St. James's and the two associated outpatient and urgent care centres on the campuses shared with Connolly and Tallaght hospitals. This project is now in the major construction phase.
This year saw: the opening of the outpatient and urgent care centre at Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown, on 31 July; the commencement of work on the centre in Tallaght, scheduled to open next year; and continued work on the new children's hospital, which is scheduled for completion in 2022. The provision of the additional services at Connolly has already shown the impact that the overall project will deliver, with more than 1,122 children presenting to the urgent care centre and 744 consultant-led outpatient attendances since it was opened. Once fully operational, this new facility will provide for 17,000 outpatient appointment attendances annually. This will contribute to significant reductions in general paediatric outpatient department waiting times for our children.
Much discussion has taken place on the cost of delivering this project. Last December, I advised Government of an escalated cost for the new children's hospital capital project, with a final figure of €1.433 billion, €450 million more than had been advised to Government in April 2017. I reiterate that this figure remains unchanged, despite accusations to the contrary. The capital build cost of the project is €1.433 billion. This includes all of the capital cost for the main hospital at the St. James's Hospital campus, which will house the school and third level educational spaces, the two outpatient departments and urgent care centres at Connolly and Tallaght, equipment for the three sites and the construction of the car park and retail spaces. No further increases to this figure have been put to, or agreed to by, the Government.
References have also been made to a figure of €1.7 billion, a figure I would like to clarify. This figure includes additional investment from other sources associated with the broader programme required, which is outside of the €1.433 billion capital costs. This includes investment in information and communications technology, ICT, with the new hospital planned as Ireland's first digital hospital. It also includes the comprehensive children's hospital integration project, the €40 million wasted on the former Mater site project and the planned construction of the children's research and innovation centre, which is to be funded through philanthropic funding.
Notwithstanding this investment from additional sources, the reported €450 million increase in December was very significant and warranted a comprehensive and independent review. PwC carried out this review earlier this year and I thank it for the thorough job it did. The review set out to examine the contributory factors and associated responsibilities so that any potential weaknesses could be identified and comprehensively and speedily resolved in the interests of the successful completion of the project and the effective management of public funds. Based on the recommendations in the report, my Department and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform have been developing an implementation plan, which my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, and I will submit to Government shortly.
Deputies will be aware from the PwC report that there are residual risks in respect of costs. This is not new information; it is included in the PwC report. These costs are not included in the guaranteed maximum price. As the chairman of the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board pointed out to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health last June, it is likely that some of those risks will materialise. The most significant of them relates to general construction industry inflation, which is running at higher levels than included in the contract and which is outside the control of the board. Another area that may add to costs is that of claims being submitted to the board by the main contractor. The contractor is entitled to submit claims that it feels are appropriate, and it is likely that such claims will continue to be put forward for the remainder of the project, as they would in respect of any construction project. These are commercially sensitive interactions between the contractor and the board and may be the subject of a dispute resolution process. As such, I am not in a position to comment any further on them. However, I assure the House that a robust process to assess these claims is set out in the construction contract, with all claims independently assessed and determined by the employer's representative, and that there is an additional dispute management process in place. I remind colleagues that when, in the past, people talked about figures that had been put forward for claims, the board had great success in significantly reducing costs through the engagement process.
There has been coverage and commentary in recent days about the resignation of one member of the board in July this year. Under the legislation establishing the board, a board member may resign at any time they choose by letter addressed to me. As Minister for Health, the only role I play in respect of such casual vacancies is to appoint a replacement. Given the range of boards for which I am responsible and the number of members on these boards, which is approximately 800, I do not, as a matter of course, issue statements when board members resign. Currently there are a number of vacancies on the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board and there is an active campaign being undertaken through the Public Appointments Service to fill them. This is very clear to see as these vacancies are advertised through the Public Appointments Service. My Department agreed, with the chairman of the board, the specific qualifications and expertise being sought in respect of any new board members. When I receive nominations from this process, I will make the appropriate appointments.
With regard to the particular individual to whom reference has been made, I would point out that this person indicated in his letter of resignation that it had been an honour and a privilege to work on such a critical project and wished us every success in its delivery. I thanked that person for his contribution.
The work the board has done over the past few years has been critically important in advancing the new children's hospital project. The Government is grateful for the time, expertise and priority that individual members have given to help advance this hugely important development. I will conclude by reiterating the importance of this project for Government. The new children's hospital project, which has been much talked about, is now finally being delivered. It is a landmark project for Ireland and is a priority capital project for the Government. It will transform how care is delivered to 25% of our country's population and will reform the Irish health service.