The creation of an Elective Care Centre in Inverness to serve Highlanders is likely to be delayed and could cost millions more than previously thought.
Progress towards construction is being made and health chiefs are hopeful they can find ways to reduce costs.
But while Edward Mountain MSP welcomed the efforts being made to make the centre a reality, he has hit out at the added delays and additional costs being incurred.
The facility, once complete, will provide knee, hip and cataract surgery alongside a full range of ophthalmology outpatient services.
To be based at Inverness Campus, it had initially been scheduled to open in 2021 at a cost of £16 million.
Costs have since soared, however, now to an estimated maximum cost of £41.3 million.
And while NHS Highland has said it is close to submitting a full business case to the Scottish Government for final approval, it has accepted the centre will now not be delivered until September 2022.
Mr Mountain said: “I held constructive talks with NHS Highland and I am pleased that since then we are beginning to see a way forward for this long-delayed project.
“However, I am dismayed that it has taken over two-and-a-half years from appointing a contractor to submitting a final business case.
“The Elective Care Centre could have been built in that time.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced in October 2015 that six such treatment centres would be created.
Mr Mountain has called for answers from the Scottish Government over its “lack of transparency on the construction timeline” adding that it has required “persistent questioning” to obtain answers.
He said the construction of the elective care centre must become a “top priority”, adding that if it had already been constructed “the Highlands would now be in a better position to reduce waiting times for patients after the pandemic”.
An NHS Highland spokesman said the delay has been largely due to increases in construction costs, with the health board holding discussions with its preferred supply chain provider to bring costs back down.
He added that work to clear the site should commence by July 2020, with the revised completed construction date now September 2022.
The spokesman added: “The ongoing Covid-19 situation could have an impact on these dates.”
The Scottish Government has said it remains committed to the project, with Health Secretary Jeane Freeman meeting staff and management in January to “consider a number of suggestions that were made to further improve the design of the new centre”.