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Friday, September 17, 2021

Qatar’s delayed Sidra hospital sacks construction contractor

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Front Sidra View

With reporting from Chantelle D’mello and Elysia Windrum

Updated at 9pm with a statement from Qatar Foundation

Hundreds of laborers, engineers, designers and others working at the under-construction Sidra Medical and Research Center were told to leave the site this morning after the project’s main contractors were sacked, multiple sources have told Doha News.

A designer working as a subcontractor there said that he and his colleagues had been asked to clear out their desks and collect their belongings around 8am today. Security guards showed up to escort people from their offices and the construction site, he added.

“It happened so suddenly we were unable to do anything. Even the managers didn’t know anything about this. This happened at the top level – the very top level.”

Sidra construction was being managed by OHL International and Contrack International, which had signed on in 2008 as a joint venture to build the hospital.

Both companies declined to comment to Doha News about what happened, referring all questions to the hospital and Qatar Foundation, which is funding Sidra with an endowment of $7.9 billion.

Sidra has not yet responded to requests for comment. However, speaking to Doha News outside of the hospital today, a QF security representative said that the hospital site was closed until after Eid holidays because it was changing contractors.

And at nearly 9pm tonight, QF sent this press statement:

“Sidra Medical and Research Center (Sidra) is a crucial project for the people of Qatar. Sidra is committed to bringing state-of-the-art patient care to Qatar, the Gulf region and the world.

On 22 July 2014, Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development terminated the contract for design and construction of the Sidra Facilities in Doha, Qatar, which was awarded in 2008 to the OHL Internacional / Contrack (Cyprus) Ltd. Joint Venture.

Sidra has three essential missions: world-class patient care, medical education and biomedical research. When complete, the Sidra facilities will set new standards in patient care for women and children in Qatar and internationally.”

Delays

According to an administrative employee at Sidra, OHL and Contrack (and a slew of subcontracted companies) were fired because they have not delivered the hospital on time.

OPC Lobby New

Sidra, billed as “an ultramodern academic medical center” dedicated to the care of women and children, was originally supposed to open in 2011, but has repeatedly postponed this date.

The most recently floated timeline was 2015, but as of May, Sidra could no longer provide a solid opening date because work on the building had not been completed.

In a statement to Doha News at the time, the hospital said:

“Sidra’s opening date depends largely on building handover and the completion of construction. Patients’ outcomes are the highest priority, and rigorous processes are underway to ensure that Sidra operates to the highest standards and opens only when the building is ready for safe patient care.”

It is not clear who will replace the contractors following the Eid holiday.

Employees working for OHL, Contrack and subcontracted companies are also expressing confusion about what to do now.

Some construction workers leaving Sidra this afternoon told Doha News that their foreman had given them the day off, but they thought they were supposed to return to work tomorrow.

And the designer said he has yet to receive any official word from his employer about how to proceed.

“We just have to keep on hold, I don’t know how many days.”

His friend added that half of the staff had already left for vacation: “When they come back, they don’t have a job, a place to work, a company to work. Everything is ruined.”

Thoughts?

78 COMMENTS

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Joe
Joe
7 years ago

This is the best way to deal with incompetence. A contractor cannot agree to a deadline unless he delivers. Postponing from 2011 to 2015? Ridiculous. They could have built Sidra twice in that time.

sadam
sadam
7 years ago
Reply to  Joe

it started 2008 wow.

Michael Fryer
Michael Fryer
7 years ago
Reply to  sadam

The Sidra delays are short when compared to the Hamad Medical City project. The three towers were finished in 2006, and only now are we being told that maybe, maybe, the hospital could be open by the end of 2014. The project is so late I sometimes wonder if people even notice the empty buildings anymore.

http://www.ashghal.gov.qa/en/MediaHub/News/Pages/Minister-of-Public-Health-and-President-of-Ashghal-Inspect-Hamad-Medical-City-Hospitals-Project.aspx#.U85hA-OSw1I

A_qtr
A_qtr
7 years ago
Reply to  Michael Fryer

Two different things. The civil work was competed in 2006 as the buildings construction contract was bundled along with the Olympic village to cut costs. They were done in 2006. The intention was to never operate the building as a hospital till much later. Then that got pushed back due to lack of staff who where prioritized for wakra and khor hospitals.

Michael Fryer
Michael Fryer
7 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

It’s different because the opening was pushed back for a different reason? I’m sure the reason that 2 additional floors have been added to one of the towers, after completion, has nothing to do with the client changing their mind and re-scoping the project midway (in fact post) completion. Maybe architecturally they thought the building would look better if it was just a little bit taller.

DT
DT
7 years ago
Reply to  Joe

Perhaps there are details not included in this article. Just “perhaps”…

The Reporter
The Reporter
7 years ago
Reply to  Joe

A very naïve comment. What makes you think that the contractor is wholly to blame?

MiM
MiM
7 years ago
Reply to  Joe

Yes, They could have built Sidra twice in that time…anywhere in the world but in Qatar.
It is really funny to read all that ignorance from people who don’t know anything about construction blaming the contractor.

The Reporter
The Reporter
7 years ago

There are 2 sides to every story. I’ve already once detailed how the Client/contractor relationship in Qatar dooms major construction projects in Qatar to failure, and I suspect that if the truth were to ever come out (which it won’t) then this would simply be shown to have followed that same downward spiral. And the next major project will just be the same.

DB
DB
7 years ago

I have driven by there twice a day for over a year and, aside from the shrouded babies, you’d never know the difference from Day 1 to today. Hope this changes things.

AEC
AEC
7 years ago

Apparently QF have decided they want it facing North-South rather than South-North and the contractors suggested that might be a little difficult within the currently contracted time and cost constraints.

Myrddin
Myrddin
7 years ago
Reply to  AEC

Maybe the paint scheme in the Executive offices was the ‘wrong’ texture? Or the tea-boy’s kitchen had the ‘wrong flooring’?

Of course, I could be mistaken?

A_qtr
A_qtr
7 years ago
Reply to  Myrddin

Or maybe it’s due to the incompetence of the contracter

LoveItOrLeaveIt2
LoveItOrLeaveIt2
7 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

There is no debate about that! It’s always the first Qatari institution/firm/individual that comes up in your mind.

Myrddin
Myrddin
7 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

Or maybe the client is simply ‘fluff’ deficient?

DavidRSS8
DavidRSS8
7 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

I can’t comment on the contractors’ competence, but I can say that QF made a great many design changes that would have delayed any project. Similar sorts of things are common occurrences in Qatar–expensive and causes substantial delays. The airport is a prime example. While design changes are not unique to Qatar, they seem to happen more often than in most locations. Partly this is because cost is not always an overriding concern; other reasons are poor initial planning, more interest in the aesthetic appeal (and discovering limitations of function later), and the fact that a lot of the designs and materials are experimental (sometimes they just don’t turn out the way the client envisioned, which IS common in unique buildings aiming for architectural significance).

Having said that, the contractor may very well have been unable to meet its own revised deadlines, failed to implement the design, etc., which are good reasons for sacking them.

Deepak Babu
Deepak Babu
7 years ago
Reply to  DavidRSS8

If the contract termination has happened due to design changes, I’m sure they will raise a case against sidra and QF. Couldn’t Doha news get any comments out of the contractors higher management than just the speculations of an administrative staff?

Myrddin
Myrddin
7 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

See above.

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
7 years ago
Reply to  Myrddin

Yep, it’s anything but the contractor’s fault!!!

TheCroc
TheCroc
7 years ago
Reply to  Abdulrahman

As DavidRSS8 mentions above, it’s very common for the vast majority of these delays to be caused by changes to the project design – these changes often happen right throughout the project and cause huge issues to the construction of a project. Whilst not a specific issue to Qatar, it does seem that significant design change is a particular problem on projects here. In some cases this is because the original designs are inadequately thought out before work starts.

A_qtr
A_qtr
7 years ago
Reply to  TheCroc

Yet the dozen other buildings including the QNCC and research center was delivered more or less on time and on budget by other contractors… This one is already three years late and contractor couldn’t even give an end date… Who incompetent

DavidRSS8
DavidRSS8
7 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

Actually, they were all late (only on time if the re-re-revised deadlines are used).

That’s why I am so impressed with Ashgal delivering the roadworks on time.

Chilidog
Chilidog
7 years ago
Reply to  DavidRSS8

If you don’t require drainage piping to consider the project complete!

DavidRSS8
DavidRSS8
7 years ago
Reply to  Chilidog

Picky, picky. I just won’t go that route if in town when it rains.

Myrddin
Myrddin
7 years ago
Reply to  Abdulrahman

You are absolutely right, it ‘could’ be the the contractors’s fault. But in the absence of further information, if someone was to drag me down to the nearest betting shop and force me to place a large bet on the likely culpable party, experience, and probability, would compel me to bet it was the client’s ever changing demands that were responsible.

EGC
EGC
7 years ago
Reply to  Myrddin

Your attempt at sarcastic humour is pitiful.

Myrddin
Myrddin
7 years ago
Reply to  EGC

You are perfectly entitled to your opinion, however, your opinion does not appear to be universally shared?

EGC
EGC
7 years ago
Reply to  AEC

Not funny.

AEC
AEC
7 years ago
Reply to  EGC

You’re right.
It’s not funny.
It’s sad.

Michael Fryer
Michael Fryer
7 years ago
Reply to  EGC

Agreed. How many people have died from lack of medical care because this hospital still remains a construction site?

Myrddin
Myrddin
7 years ago
Reply to  EGC

I certainly appreciate the wit – the plausibility is apparent to many.

Big Biker
Big Biker
7 years ago

How much if the delay is due to client changes? Not an unknown issue on major projects especially in the health care sector, and I have worked on several.

DavidRSS8
DavidRSS8
7 years ago
Reply to  Big Biker

My guess is that most of the major delays are due to client changes, which is the typical cause in Qatar for major projects. The airport is a prime example. In Sidra’s case, they’ve repurposed the mission multiple times over the past few years. I can only assume this has altered the building plans.

Having said that, the contractor may very well have been unable to meet its own revised deadlines, failed to implement the design, etc., which are good reasons for sacking them.

TheCroc
TheCroc
7 years ago
Reply to  DavidRSS8

Couldn’t agree more. Inadequately scoped projects subject to significant change.

A_qtr
A_qtr
7 years ago

The first right thing to come out of QF in the last five years. Sack them if they’re proven to be incompetent. Way to much flexibility is given to construction companies…

Myrddin
Myrddin
7 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

Because the Gcc countries hate elastic contracts?

Major
Major
7 years ago

Your link to OHL International is incorrect. The correct url is: www[dot]ohl[dot]es

Shabina921
Shabina921
7 years ago
Reply to  Major

Thanks, fixed it.

PlanetCitizen
PlanetCitizen
7 years ago

I hope QF do retain the work force, Qatar really need to establish proper guidelines and ensure that contractors are having the right tools and resources to work effectively.

Michael Fryer
Michael Fryer
7 years ago
Reply to  PlanetCitizen

That would depend on the subcontracting arrangements in place with whoever is carrying out the actual work. But given the difficulty that companies face with sponsorship and NOC issues, it’s far more likely that there will be 500 laborers flying home and 500 different laborers flying back in their place.

PlanetCitizen
PlanetCitizen
7 years ago
Reply to  Michael Fryer

Retaining the existing mid-level management and labor workers would give an edge to the next contractor. Qataris need to learn to develop its existing man power and retain them for the next 10-15 years. It will be a blow to Qatar if they lose them.

Yacine
Yacine
7 years ago

The QF statement is a joke. They announce a big and unusual thing but they stop short of providing an explanation. In other words, let’s not stop the rumour mill. Clearly a very amateurish and counter-efficient PR strategy.

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
7 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

They cannot explain because it wasn’t QF’s decision 😉

Yacine
Yacine
7 years ago
Reply to  Abdulrahman

Even if it came from the Emiri Diwan or Sheikha Moza herself, the PR team needs to issue a professional and diplomatic statement. It is not difficult to say, for example, that “the project stakeholders discussed the delays and other issues that have so far impacted the work on the Sidra project, and decided mutually to review the contracts and scope of work of the companies involved. The aim of the move is to improve workflow, remove administrative obstacles and ensure an opening date by mid-2015”. Or any other statement that does not portray what happened as a crazy decision that hides even worse issues within the project.

I_am_an_Ordinary_person
I_am_an_Ordinary_person
7 years ago

Seems like the admin is pulling up its socks and getting ready to crack the whip…and why not when the purse strings are getting a bit tighter…the projections on gas prices in coming years aren’t that great. Hence, I would imagine that all white elephants would either be tamed or would be parked aside till they die their natural death.

Michael Fryer
Michael Fryer
7 years ago

Speaking of purse strings, who cam forget this from a few years ago, as Qatar requested a cool billion dollars in “donations” to help fund Sidra.

https://dohanews.co/wikileaks-qatar-solicits-1-billion-angering-oil/

Canadian Observer
Canadian Observer
7 years ago

I do know that part of the delay is due to design changes mid-construction – i.e. we’d like a window here, there will be an office here now not a generator, etc. – Siemens (doing the safety system) then has to redo wiring, etc so all safety features, and just plain features, required by a hospital are to standard. Just saying…

Coco
Coco
7 years ago

What is this standard you speak of? Is it “sbecial” and shiny?

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
7 years ago

“When they come back, they don’t have a job, a place to work, a company to work. Everything is ruined.” Wait, what?! I’m sorry, but were their companies created only for the Sidra project? Or were they hired just for that job? My o my, such drama!

TheCroc
TheCroc
7 years ago
Reply to  Abdulrahman

Quite often that is the case – because of incorporation rules here and the requirement to have Qatari shareholders, companies are set up for specific projects, so it’s not just ‘drama’.

johnny wang
johnny wang
7 years ago

Sacked just like that…. Does not the contractor have a right to explain his side of the story.

A_qtr
A_qtr
7 years ago
Reply to  johnny wang

Maybe they simply continued to delay.. I’m surprised they said most were out on summer vacation… If I was late delivering the project everyone would be on overtime

Saffa
Saffa
7 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

There is no overtime here in Qatar. Project run 24/6 or 24/7 from the get go. There is no room for acceleration in the project schedule when that is the case. And its not so simple as to just throw more resources at it. Up to a certain point that works, but beyond that the additional resources just get in each others way and actually slow down the works again.

As @dohadude:disqus has said, it is now going to be more difficult to sort this out. Blame is likely due in a number of places, not just with the Contractor, though they are likely to have been a contributor.

Lady
Lady
7 years ago

wow.. many people who don’t know much of the project say so many things as if they do know about it.
my husband works on the project and he and his whole team try to deliver as best as they can. so let’s not try to point fingers until all the facts are laid out

dohadude
dohadude
7 years ago

I work in construction here and I see this all the time. It could be a number of issues – bad original design, shifting client demands, bad contractors or bad project management. I think all have a role here. That said, firing the contractor was the easy and wrong thing to do.

Why? The contractor follows direction from the Project Management team. They want to get in and get out or else they could lose their shirt – unless they get change orders or substitute materials with substandard items to recoup losses. Who controls and oversees this to make sure it runs smoothly? The Project Management company.

In business the saying goes when an employee quits its the manager who is to blame. While the contractors did not quit, it is ultimately the responsibility of the Project Management team for coordination of the site and keeping the project schedule. The contractors are like musicians while the PM is the conductor.

Who is the Project Management company for Sidra? Astad Project Management: http://www.astad.qa/en/projects/research-facilities/sidra-medical-research-centre/ According to their website its their responsibility to ‘to provide project management for complex infrastructure and buildings through quality practices, timely delivery, precise scoping and competitive pricing’ So all of Sidra’s faults – quality, timely delivery, managing client demands and cost control belongs squarely on them and not the contractors who were fired.

Where are they in shouldering the responsibility? Its easy to blame those ‘foreign companies’ here to ‘suck the money’ out of Qatar without caring what they leave behind. But if you understand construction, you know its not that easy.

So what happens now? You can’t give up or hit the ‘stop’ button – you can’t flip it off like a switch. The hospital has been hiring hundreds of staff already. There’s also a big building that can’t be converted into a hotel or mall overnight. The only solution is to finish it.

What’s left to do is find replacement companies to complete the work. Again, from personal experience – this can be done but is expensive and messy. The fist task of the replacement contractor will be to check over the existing work as they will have to cover it in their own warranties. So to make money they will find a million things wrong with the existing work before they can start. Cue ballooning costs and additional project delay.

Its NEVER a good idea to just ‘fire people’ as it creates more problems than it solves. Inexperienced people (or people trying to cover their own mistakes) do that.

Do I feel sorry for the contractors who were fired? No. The contractors will survive – they could go to Dubai and find lots of work for the upcoming Expo – just check the website Bayt.com to see the demand for competent contractors and project managers. Doha will more and more need to compete for experienced people and resources unless its planning to race to the bottom by simply firing people who aren’t to blame. As this event approaches you’ll see more people and companies leave (or skip over) Doha for Dubai I expect.

The people hurt most by this are those who moved here looking to help create and work in a world class hospital that now won’t be ready on time.

Coco
Coco
7 years ago

Ok, I think I’ve been misunderstood, it wouldn’t be the first time:
I was actually making fun of the trading & contracting companies that are usually managed (poorly) by an uneducated and somehow (key money and commissions – Brokers are doing great in Qatar) end up getting contracts for large projects that they have no idea how to estimate, budget or execute.

While I do blame contractors for lack of a decent pre-qualification system, I can understand them. If a grown man enters into a contract you would expect him to know what he is signing and what he’s getting into. Unfortunately that’s not the case and the same “mudeers” end up crying in court when the “fertilizer” hits the fan.

Solution? Well, one would be don’t allow contractors to subcontractors any part of the works (or if they do, that sub should produce a profit & loss report for the past 10 years, a portfolio of projects, HSE reports, etc.). That way they can’t blame subs for accommodation, late salaries, worker abuse, delays, etc.

Subs pay money to get projects they don’t know how to complete, contractors and the one that brokered the deal are happy as the responsibility is passed on and everything gets delayed.

Clients are allowed to change their mind if they pay for the changes. Fast tracking a project isn’t that hard if you allocate the resources and you have a decent team to estimate a realistic timeline.

It’s funny how a lot of people make exorbitant amounts of money and these people are the middle-men. The client loses money and time and the ones actually executing the works (workers) end up sleeping outdoors and are unpaid.

Locals need to get involved more, it’s their country they should give a damn about what goes on. I see a change, a lot are getting involved and take over control, but there’s a desperate need for more interest.

It might sound like an utopia, but when you’re sitting on loads of cash you have the possibility to change things as you see fit.

Saffa
Saffa
7 years ago
Reply to  Coco

“estimate a realistic timeline” that’s wishful thinking…

As to everything else you are say, that’s why things like FIDIC, JCT or NEC 2&3 (or any of the other forms of contract) exist. And there are forms of those specific to all types of projects be they DB or EPC or Client Designed

Coco
Coco
7 years ago
Reply to  Saffa

I did mention it’s an utopian scenario 🙂

Saffa
Saffa
7 years ago
Reply to  Coco

My experience in Qatar is that Clients are a large part of the problem. There seems to be an ADHD-type mentality with lots of Clients here. They have an “Oooooohhhh, shiny, me wants!” moment regularly and don’t like to be told “No, that’s not possible now” or “Yes, we could, but it’ll cost you x million more to make that change”, that’s when the proverbial dummy (pacifier for you Yanks/Rebels depending on which side of the Mason-Dixon line you fall) gets spat out and the speaky recreational devices get expelled from the perabulator

Cést la vie, non?

Michael Strand
Michael Strand
7 years ago

AS ONE OF THE ACTUAL DESIGN TEAM MEMBERS I FOUND IT VERY HARD TO GET THINGS GOING WHEN WE REALLY NEEDED TIME CRUCIAL INFORMATION.. SO THIS DOES NOT SUPRISE ME ANY….. WOULD LIKE TO SEE IT COME TO FRUITION THOUGH….

mjh17
mjh17
7 years ago

The project has had 3 revised completion dates, in 2011 it was agreed between the main contractor and sub-contractors that a finish date of 12/12/12 was achievable. here we are almost 2 years after that date and the hospital is still closed, this has been a long time coming in my eyes.

reddi_sc231
reddi_sc231
7 years ago

I used to work, in this project and while I do admit that there some faults on the contractor’s side, the big delays are due to the client design changes. If I recall at one point while I was working at the site, the client wanted the 2nd floor layout to be changed to the 3rd floor layout and vice versa.

24houranalyst
24houranalyst
7 years ago

This JV is registered offshore in Cyprus because it saves considerable corporate tax that way. Surprise surprise OHL International and Contrack are both primarily AMERICAN companies

Will B
Will B
7 years ago

I noticed that the hospital solicited for software last november so they could do “project management.” Last I saw, they had not awarded that contract or tried to hire staff with the expertise to run it. A dollar (millions) late and a dollar billions) short. OR, maybe they did, and the software revealed that they were now 10 years behind schedule, not 5.

Aayush Jaiswal
Aayush Jaiswal
6 years ago

Can anyone help me with contact number of Sidra….The old one plays an automated speech..

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