Frustrated by Delays, Santa Clara County Hires Construction Auditor for New Psychiatric Hospital | News

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For years, Santa Clara County supervisors have been told that an innovative psychiatric facility serving children and adolescents will be full and open to patients by November of next year. In the end, that deadline was never going to happen.

Now the tentative plan is to open the hospital by December 2024 at the earliest, a delay of more than a year that frustrates supervisors and seeks to prevent further problems caused by contractors or the county itself. same. County supervisors voted unanimously last week to hire an independent auditor to monitor the hospital’s development more closely and avoid further delays.

Santa Clara County began planning for the hospital in 2018 following emotional calls from the community for a youth mental institution. Until then, children in crisis had to travel long distances for care, with some families going as far as Sacramento or Bakersfield for available beds.

Although plans have changed over time to include adult psychiatric beds, the mission remains largely unchanged. The new hospital at Valley Medical Center in San Jose will have 77 beds, including 21 for adolescents and 14 for children on separate hospital wards, with a focus on providing a safe healing environment for patients in crisis .

What has radically changed is the calendar. The original plan was to open the hospital to patients by November 2023, a schedule that county staff repeatedly adhered to at county health and hospital committee meetings throughout 2020. and 2021. But the calendar flipped last November to suggest construction wasn’t moving at a rapid pace, moving the date to December 2024.

Even that timeline is starting to seem tenuous at best. The project’s general contractor, XL Construction, told county officials it waived “any possibility” of meeting the original completion date, citing a later estimate of April 2025. The project’s costs, originally estimated at $233 million, are now expected to land between $370 million and $496 million – the latter based on XL Construction’s latest report.

Escalating costs are fueled by a mix of scope changes and “uncertainty” in the construction market, the company says, which includes labor shortages, material costs and other issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Supervisor Joe Simitian, who proposed the county hire an auditor to ensure the project is on time and on budget, said he was continually disappointed with the way the schedule was presented to council. Along with monthly updates, Simitian was point-blank asking county staff at every meeting if the construction schedule was still realistic – something he described as a “painful practice” that still couldn’t keep the project on schedule. .

“We have received repeated assurances of a timeline and those repeated assurances have proven to be inconsistent with the facts on the ground,” Simitian said at the Jan. 11 meeting. “I spent three years getting information that was not accurate on the completion date.”

In addition to hiring an auditor, the county told XL Construction it will be terminating its contract with the company and seeking a general contractor starting in February, said Doug Koenig, deputy director of capital programs at the county. He said completion of the hospital by the end of 2024 is still achievable and a full five months ahead of what XL Construction was proposing.

At the December 15 health and hospital committee meeting, supervisor Otto Lee called the delays disappointing and said the psychiatric hospital was a much-needed resource for the community.

“It’s long overdue and there’s definitely a sense of urgency to do it,” Lee said. “Having the appointment of an independent auditor to keep pushing this thing would be very helpful.”

Santa Clara County has struggled in the past to keep construction of the hospital on schedule and under budget. A Valley Medical Center expansion project with a new wing led to serious problems in 2015, including a lawsuit filed by the county claiming that the prime contractor was responsible for delays and costs rising by more than $100 million. The two parties later reached an agreement and resumed construction in 2016.

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