A major hospital project in Western Australia has again been delayed after contractor head contractor John Holland did not complete the handover of the hospital on the scheduled date of August 4 following the discovery of asbestos in the roof panels last month.

Media reports have quoted Health Minister John Day as saying that it was not known when the new hospital – which was originally slated to open last year – will now open.

Day says he is frustrated about the ongoing delays.

“We are very disappointed that John Holland has taken as long as they have to complete this hospital,” Day is quoted as saying on the ABC web site.

“It was due to be opened before the end of last year. It is a complex and difficult project, there’s no doubt about that, but time after time the dates that we have been given have been missed.”

Located in Nedlands, the new hospital is set to replace the Princes Margaret Hospital as the only hospital which will be specifically dedicated toward children’s care.

Key features include an expansion of a number of clinical areas including greater neonatal and oncology capacity, an expanded Surgical Day Stay Unit and a new High Dependency Unit which will sit alongside the Intensive Care Unit.

The latest delay was sparked when the presence of chrysotile asbestos (white asbestos) was discovered last month after unidentified material was loosened from an atrium roof panel on a link bridge on the eighth level when the panel was being penetrated during planned works.

Following discovery of the material, builder John Holland indicated that a remediation plan was being put in place and that it was not certain when the hospital would be ready for handover.

It denied media reports that asbestos was present within the ventilation system and said reports of higher concentrations of the material than was initially thought could not be confirmed.

Health Department director-general David Russell-Weisz says efforts were being made to have the hospital open by the end of the year but added that safety would not be compromised in order for this to occur.

It is understood that the government will look at compensation for liquidated damages when making the final payment for the contract.