The South Australian government has launched legal action against the consortium in charge of building the new Royal Adelaide Hospital after more construction delays.

The new RAH was due to reach technical completion in April and then May – but Health Minister Jack Snelling says new, independent advice indicates this is likely to blow out until July or August, pushing the likely opening date into 2017.

Mr Snelling issued a major default notice against the SA Health Partnership (SAHP) consortium, which will compel it to put forward a reliable completion date.

“This is really about forcing them to the table, forcing them to be upfront and honest,” he told reporters.

“I’m not too fussed about the hospital being late. It’ll be ready when it’s ready.

“All we need from them is a date that they’re confident in, that we can be confident in.”

The new RAH was meant to open to patients in November.

Mr Snelling said the action against SAHP carried significant financial penalties.

“South Australian taxpayers won’t be forking our for a hospital that isn’t ready,” he said.

“Every day that they’re late, that’s a million dollars that they’re not getting paid.”

But Mr Snelling emphasised that safety, not speed, was paramount after the death of a construction worker in February.

“They cannot in any way compromise workers’ safety on that site to try and meet some deadline,” he said.

Opposition finance spokesman Rob Lucas called for stronger financial penalties for the consortium.

“The new Royal Adelaide Hospital is now more than $600 million over budget and likely to be a year overdue yet the government is merely asking the builders to set a realistic date for handover,” he said.

SAHP declined to comment.