Cape Town. 120509. Part of the new Mitchells Plain hospital experienced a fire today. Fire services quickly controlled the flames leaving the part of the building under smoke. Reporter Zara Nicholson. Picture Courtney Africa

The contractor overseeing the construction of the new Mitchells Plain Hospital will be liable for the costs of the damage caused by a fire last week, say provincial authorities.

The completion of the R500 million hospital could also be delayed after a large part of the facility’s emergency section was destroyed in the blaze. The hospital was 80 percent complete when the fire started. The cause of the fire is still being investigated.

On Wednesday, Thando Mguli, chief director in the provincial public works department, told members of the legislature’s standing committee on community development that the Western Cape government was not liable for the damage as the fire took place while the building was “still in the custody of the contractor”.

He said the contractor would be held liable irrespective of the outcome of a provincial investigation into the cause of the blaze.

“We will receive the report by the end of the week, but the contractor will be liable. The site was in their custody and they will have to pay for the damage. The state won’t be footing that bill,” Mguli said.

The hospital is set to relieve the pressure on other state hospitals and was supposed to open in October. Construction was earlier delayed by almost a year by cash-flow problems arising from “misalignment of funds” in the Hospital Revitalisation Programme.

The Western Cape Public Works Department is building 19 health facilities at the cost of R1.06 billion across the province, and 33 facilities are currently in the planning phase, which is estimated to cost the provincial government about R1.5bn.

The biggest project in the province’s planning portfolio is the R900m Valkenberg Hospital upgrade. Construction will start in April 2013 and the upgrade is expected to be completed by March 2017.

Other planned projects include the construction of the R76m Dunoon health centre, which starts in July and ends in February 2014; a R90m forensic pathology lab in Observatory and a R60m community day facility in District Six.

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Cape Argus