28 Mar 2018

'A lot of problems' in Middlemore buildings - DHB boss

12:26 pm on 28 March 2018

The building at Middlemore Hospital that houses the country's largest maternity service might have to be knocked down because it is unstable and riddled with asbestos.

Middlemore hospital

Middlemore hospital Photo: Google Maps

The hospital says it's getting to the point where it would be cheaper to build new buildings than repair the existing ones.

Counties-Manukau DHB acting chief executive Dr Gloria Johnson told Morning Report "We've obviously known that asbestos is in our buildings for as long as the asbestos has been there I guess, whenever it was put in, but asbestos is only an issue if you want to disturb it."

She said that the issue is that the DHB wants to do work on the building and this could disturb the asbestos.

The DHB is currently developing an asbestos plan in order to have an approach for managing it.

Dr Johnson said they are currently monitoring asbestos throughout the campus.

She said the regular air monitoring, sometimes twice a week, is not finding any at the moment but she said in some areas, the most practical thing to do is to close off the building and stop using it.

The maternity ward is unstable and filled with asbestos.

With a seismic risk, NBS rating of 20 -25 percent, Dr Johnson says it is "extremely low" for a building such as this that is needed in an emergency such as an earthquake.

"It's a long way short of where it should be and that's why the cost of remediating it, to get it up to that level is likely to be prohibitive, compared to the cost of actually replacing it ... "

Dr Johnson said there are no buildings that need to be demolished right now.

"There are a whole host of buildings where we need to carefully do the analysis of. What the better thing to do is to actually remediate all of the problems in the building, or build new and replace them, and we need to go through that progressively for many of the buildings on the campus."

A councillor for the Manakau Ward, Efeso Collins, says families have lost faith not just in the hospital, but also in a management and governance structure that seems to be rotten.

"I think in the minds and the hearts of the people here in Manukau, it is an absolute disaster."

He said people who work in the hospital have come to him anonymously to tell him about the asbestos problem.

"It goes to show that the community has lost faith in the DHB."

He said the issue is perception as the DHB has known much of this information since 2012.

Mr Collins questioned who will stand up for the Manukau community and good healthcare in the area.

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