4 Apr 2018

Middlemore Hospital: Three more buildings of 'high concern'

2:37 pm on 4 April 2018

The extent of the Counties Manukau District Health Board's building woes is even worse than first thought.

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Middlemore Hospital Photo: SUPPLIED

RNZ has been reporting on hospital buildings at Middlemore Hospital that are full of rot and potentially dangerous mould. There's also asbestos present and raw sewage leaking into the walls.

The District Health Board has said it became aware as early as 2012 it had four badly leaking buildings; Scott Building, Kidz First, SuperClinic Complex and the McIndoe Building.

A briefing document to unions shows many more buildings are affected.

A 2017 facilities stocktake rates each of the DHB's buildings from a high level of concern through to no concern.

While the SuperClinic was among the high concern buildings, the McIndoe, Kidz First were considered medium concern with leaky Scott Building only low.

Seven buildings were considered of "high concern" with asbestos, leaks, critical infrastructure problems and some seismic concerns.

The buildings include the Colvin Complex, which is home to patient wards, the Western Campus and the Otara Spinal Unit.

A total of 16 buildings are in the high or medium concern categories.

When asked for more details, Counties Manukau DHB did not directly address questions, instead saying they would be considered under the Official Information Act.

"We are currently completing a paper which addresses these questions.

"However it is not yet complete," it said in a statement.

Regarding asbestos, facilities and infrastructure spokesperson Margie Apa said the material was common in older buildings, and was a low risk if it remained undisturbed.

The hospital has procedures in place for when work is required on buildings with asbestos, she said.

An organiser at the DHB for the Nurses Organisation, Anna Majavu, said staff were only made aware of the extent of problems with hospital buildings at a briefing last week.

"The buildings are quite old but we're still quite surprised because there's people working in them, there're patients being treated in them, and we wouldn't have expected the hospital to have sat on a report that shows that they're earthquake prone, their full of asbestos and they're not weather tight.

She said the Western Campus, which has suspected seismic issues, asbestos, and critical infrastructure concerns, was full of nurses every day.

"Colvin building, that's got seismic, asbestos, and weather tight problems, there's still patients in there ... so the mould is an issue and the asbestos is an issue to us."

The Ōtara Spinal Unit was also among those with issues and the briefing said a business case was under way to replace the building altogether.

Ms Majavu said the unions were told the previous government had not committed funding to that and she said the extent of the DHB's problem now showed what could happen when necessary investment was not made.

"It's a real crisis and it's a huge tragedy that the previous government didn't provide the money to repair these buildings and to build the new facilities needed because now we're in a situation where the nurses, midwives, and healthcare assistants have to continue working in these dangerous buildings, patients have to continue being cared for in these dangerous buildings, and there's literally nowhere to move the patients to at this time."

She said the DHB told the unions the buildings would be repaired over time.

It is understood a document similar to the briefing given to the unions was given to Health Minister David Clark when he called the DHB to Wellington last Thursday.

Dr Clark said he had asked the District Health Board to explain the state of their assets and their plans for them.

Speaking in Parliament yesterday he said sick people should not have to worry about the safety of the buildings but he had been assured by the DHB that nobody was at risk.

No mention of rot at public meeting

The Counties Manukau District Health Board has made no mention of its mouldy buildings in its first public board meeting since stories about the problems broke.

During the public part of the meeting at the hospital this morning, acting chief executive Gloria Johnson did not mention the issue in her report, and none of the elected representatives raised it.

The issue of recladding one of the buildings is expected to be discussed behind closed doors.

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