WATCH: Tour the Midland Metropolitan Hospital being finished with £300m public cash
It has stood idle, gathering mould as water seeped inside.
Now the Government is to spend more than £300 million of taxpayers’ money to finish work on the stalled Midland Metropolitan Hospital at Smethwick.
Work getting under way this autumn and the Express & Star was given a tour inside the shell of the hospital to see the scale of the project ahead.
WATCH the tour of the hospital
It will take the final bill for the hospital to more than £500 million when it opens in 2022 – four years later than originally planned.
In the meantime urgent repairs and weather proofing work is needed at the site, which has stood idle since building company Carillion collapsed in January.
Up to £20 million will be spent over the coming months to secure the site from further weather damage before the winter, so construction work by a new contractor can start next spring.
Despite the best efforts of maintenance staff to protect the vast site from the worst of the wind and rain over the last seven months, some areas inside are suffering from mould where water has seeped in.
A handful of former Carillion workers have been kept at the site by the Sandwell & West Birmingham NHS Trust.
Rob Maiden, the former safety manager on the construction site, said all plasterboarding in the building would need to be checked for damp to ensure there was no further risk of mould.
“Some of it will have to be replaced, along with some of the building materials that have run out of date, like the adhesives, and some of the metalwork that won’t be able to be salvaged,” he said.
A 29-year Carillion veteran and a member of the core team at the Midland Met site since before construction started three years ago, he admitted it had been “sad and really frustrating” to see work on the project stalled for so many months.
One area of mould is above and around a window on the second level - what will become a clinical and medical floor - overlooking an interior courtyard. Mr Maiden said the water was thought to have got in through an uncapped concrete parapet on the fifth level.
He said there were also concerns about parts of the expensive air conditioning system. "It had to be installed during the construction so, if it has to be replaced it could mean having to remove panels from the outside walls."
When Carillion collapsed the company had around 70 people at the site, but since April there have been just six or seven to cover the whole building. Plastic sheeting has been used to keep the water out of vulnerable areas and much of the metalwork waiting to be installed is already weatherproofed, but Richard Molloy, the former Carillion finance director for the project, admitted it was 'impossible' to keep all the water out.
As a result parts of the building have been affected by water damage, damp and mould.
Mr Molloy, part of the original bidding team for the project back in 2015, said it had been 'frustrating' watching the empty building deteriorate despite their best efforts. "It's been like putting sticking plasters over it."
But he stressed: "The structure of the building is absolutely fine, as is the facade that surrounds it."
And he is proud of the hospital it will become: "It's an incredible design and is going to provide a wonderful facility for local people when it is completed; it will make a huge difference to improving the quality of the health care they will receive."
Yesterday there was an enthusiastic reception for the Government’s decision to directly pay for work to complete the two-thirds built hospital.
The idea of a second private finance deal, similar to the one with Carillion, has been dropped and instead the money will come from the taxpayer.
When completed, Midland Metropolitan will be equipped with state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment, 15 operating theatres, and at least 669 beds. It will provide acute care for adults and children as well as maternity care and specialised surgery.
But the four year delay – originally the hospital was due to be handed over to the trust this month – will place added strain on the existing hospital services in the area.
Making the funding announcement, Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington said: “Following detailed negotiation, the Government is pleased to announce this package of support, in partnership with Birmingham and Sandwell NHS Trust, to ensure completion of this new hospital.
“Our priority through this process has been to keep public services running smoothly and safely. The plans we put in place have ensured this, and we continue to work hard to minimise the impacts following the insolvency of Carillion, having safeguarded over 13,000 jobs to date.”
Hospital trust chief executive, Toby Lewis, said: “This is absolutely fantastic news. After a huge amount of work by teams across Whitehall and the Trust, and with the voices of local residents, clinicians, and stakeholders having been being clearly heard, we are delighted that we now have a definitive publicly financed plan.”
Work on repairs and maintenance will start this autumn while the trust aims to have a main construction contractor appointed by November. Work on completing the hospital will then start next spring.
West Midlands Mayor Andy Street said: “The collapse of Carillion left everybody involved in this project in a challenging situation That we have successfully found a way forward is testament to the work of the Trust, Government and local partners.”