19 Jun 2019

Hamilton councillor unaware hospital buildings without WOFs

2:13 pm on 19 June 2019

A Hamilton city councillor says he's trying to find out if the council has been giving too much leeway to building owners who can't get a warrant of fitness.

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Photo: Supplied / Facebook

Multiple hospital buildings at the Waikato District Health Board (WDHB) have not had warrants for months, and some for more than a year, because of holes and or improperly sealed gaps in fire-rated walls and floors.

That includes the maternity services and emergency department blocks.

Hamilton City Council in a statement said it was satisfied the hospital's early warning systems for fire were good enough.

"We have certification of all the WDHB active systems, which allows us to be satisfied on reasonable grounds that the buildings have the required early warning systems to support the evacuation in the event of an emergency," council building control manager Cory Lang said.

Councillor Dave Macpherson was also on the DHB until May, when the government, worried by its growing deficit and instability, replaced the board with a commissioner.

Yesterday was the first he had heard of the hospital's fire protection problems, he said.

That the single biggest hospital in New Zealand had buildings like that was "something we should absolutely be told about and we should be told what action is being taken to fix that", Mr Macpherson said.

The DHB has failed to clarify to RNZ exactly what buildings are without warrants of fitness, but the Waikato Times reported today there were 27 outstanding warrants when the hospital began a firestopping repair programme in mid-2017, "and that dropped to about seven this year, before rebounding to 14 as more reached annual renewal dates".

Mr Macpherson said he had raised it with council chief executive Richard Briggs.

"He's concerned, he's told me, like I am, that there's been no heads up for either senior management or the governance, the elected members on this.

"It's not something we've heard about, it's not good enough."

As a former DHB board member, he said he was "doubly concerned that that board wasn't told either".

"I'd like to know whether it's a more widespread problem than that, and I've asked the CEO exactly that question.

"He doesn't know the answer but he's promised to find out."

Mr Lang said the council was comfortable that all the appropriate measures were being taken.

"We have agreed on an ongoing maintenance and upgrade plan to address passive fire protection features that is preventing them [the DHB] issuing a new building warrant of fitness."

Other hospitals are also grappling with deficient firestopping, and paying for repairs of these and other infrastructure problems out of capital budgets while facing growing financial deficits.

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