29 Mar 2018

Middlemore nurses want answers - are we safe?

11:07 am on 29 March 2018

Nurses at Auckland's Middlemore Hospital say the hospital is in a "dire situation" and want assurance from health bosses that the air they are breathing is safe.

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Photo: RNZ / Jesse Chiang

RNZ revealed last week that four hospital buildings are full of rot and dangerous mould, just one of a growing list of problems which includes raw sewage leaking into the walls.

The Galbraith building, which houses the country's largest maternity ward, is riddled with asbestos and is an earthquake risk.

"The DHB needs obviously to get on with repairing the situation," the Nurses Organisation's Middlemore organiser, Anna Majavu told Morning Report this morning.

"The issues were identified five years ago and it looks like it's going to be another five to eight years to fix the problem."

Counties-Manukau DHB acting chief executive Gloria Johnson told Morning Report yesterday that air monitoring has, so far, found no traceable asbestos but that there would be a problem if it was disturbed.

Nurses are yet to see air quality reports to assure them that the air is safe to breath but Ms Majavu said the DHB has made a commitment to share these.

She said, however, "the situation does appear to be highly unstable and remains a concern for our members".

The building is also earthquake-prone, with a NBS rating of 20 to 25 percent.

Earthquake-prone buildings are defined as those that fail to meet 34 percent of the current New Building Standard (NBS) according to New Zealand Insurance.

Ms Majavu said that extent of the problem was not fully known and it would not take much to cause a breach to the outer lining.

She said nurses were frustrated and while cordoning off the problem buildings - as suggested by the DHB - would be a solution, there was not enough space to house patients.

"Obviously we're coming into the winter season, that's a real concern and there's a lot of frustration around the situation that our members are facing.

"What our members need to see now is that some actions need to be taken by the DHB."

Ms Majavu said fiscal constraints over the last ten years has led to what is now a "a dire situation".

The DHB was reluctant to ask the previous government for funding to fix mouldy, rotting and unstable buildings because of pressure from ministers to stay in surplus, Dr Johnson told Checkpoint with John Campbell.

Remediating the issues in multiple buildings and adding new buildings to meet demand will cost $1.6 billion.

It will cost about the same to build a new acute hospital and facilities.

The construction of new buildings altogether is strongly preferred by the nurses but Dr Johnson said that 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," she previously told Morning Report.

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