14 May 2019

Middlemore to scrap instead of fix quake-prone Galbraith building

6:43 pm on 14 May 2019

Middlemore Hospital has decided to get rid of an earthquake-prone building that houses maternity wards rather than strengthen it.

No caption.

Photo: RNZ / Jesse Chiang

It has been grappling for months with what to do with the ageing Galbraith building which rates at just 20 percent of new building seismic standards.

Engineers said raising it to just 35 percent would cost more than $70 million.

Counties Manukau Health said that was prohibitive.

Instead, it is now seeking government funding to replace Galbraith with a building housing gynaecology and maternity units, and an extra ward block.

Work is underway to shift the radiology department to another building at an estimated cost of up to $50m.

Business cases are also being prepared for a host of other remedial capital works that must be negotiated with the Ministry of Health, Treasury and the national Capital Investment Committee.

Counties Manukau has six other buildings that are seismically suspect and have called in engineers Beca to look at these six others.

In an Official Information Act (OIA) response, it refused to release the details - for now.

"When this additional advice has been considered by the board, we will be publicly releasing the independent reports and board decisions," it said in an OIA response.

Asbestos is causing bigger headaches than expected.

It was confirmed or suspected in a dozen buildings, including Galbraith, but bigger problems have been revealed after managers ordered a wider investigation.

This showed that in key locations, "several areas known to contain high-risk asbestos materials cannot be effectively remediated".

Contaminated ceiling voids, basements and tunnels cannot be cleared of asbestos, at the Bray, Colvin, Ōtara Spinal Unit, Western Campus and Poutasi buildings and both the Pukekohe and Franklin Hospital.

The upshot is the asbestos risk would be managed with "increased controls or restrictions" until roofs were replaced or refurbished.

The board blanked out in the OIA response an estimated cost for removing asbestos or minimising the risk.

"Potential asbestos expenditure ... cannot be accurately forecast as many of these activities are reactive, unplanned," the board said.

Why the delay?

Delays have handicapped attempts to fix buildings, some of which are failing after less than 20 years.

A unique and untested way of recladding buildings with the patients still in them has begun at the acute care Scott building, six months after consent was lodged.

The consent delays were partly due to lead contractor Hawkins giving the Auckland Council "poor quality information", according to the engineer overseeing the contract.

Hawkins is now under new Australian ownership, compared to when it built the defective Middlemore buildings in the early 2000s.

Also, alarm bells rung by the fatal Grenfell Tower fire in London in 2017 meant Auckland Council refused to approve the designer's choice of cladding because it was unlikely to meet building code requirements due to fire compliance issues, the engineer said.

They are having to use another type of cladding on the Scott.

But the engineer also blamed the council, saying consenting was taking two to three months in Auckland instead of 20 working days.

"The surge of building projects through the industry is placing unprecedented pressure on council."

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