16 Mar 2020

Greymouth hospital opening delayed again to repair earthquake restraints

12:38 pm on 16 March 2020

The West Coast's new hospital opening has been delayed until September after defects in its non-structrural earthquake restraints were discovered.

An artist's impression of Te Nikau Grey Hospital and Health Centre in Greymouth.

An artist's impression of Te Nikau Grey Hospital and Health Centre in Greymouth. Photo: Fair Use / Screenshot / Canterbury DHB

Fletcher Building is having to pull ceilings out of the new West Coast hospital to fix earthquake restraints.

It is the latest blow for a project that is two years late opening, $20 million over budget and the subject of a $31m dispute between Fletcher and the Health Ministry.

The District Health Board is demanding the $90m building be fixed, and quickly.

The ministry was supposed to start handing over Te Nikau Grey Hospital and Health Centre in Greymouth to the district health board last month.

"No, it's not acceptable, I'm completely frustrated by it, I'm very frustrated by it," West Coast District Health Board chair Rick Barker said.

Airconditioning units in the ceilings had not been properly restrained to withstand earthquakes, and there might be other seismic restraint defects too, he said.

Hospitals have in the past suffered huge damage to non-structural components such as plumbing, ceiling tiles and airconditioning, in earthquakes, such as the magnitude 6.0 earthquake in California's Napa Valley in 2014. Non-structural damage disabled the BNZ Harbour Quays building in Wellington in the 2013 and 2016 quakes.

At the Greymouth project, Fletcher Construction had only alerted the DHB to the defects in the last couple of weeks, DHB deputy chair Tony Kokshoorn said.

"One part hospital is not up to standard, seismically," Kokshoorn said.

Neither he nor the the chair had been told the extent of the defects, and were waiting for a report from Fletcher. Barker said he had only recently been given the status of an observer on a group of officials overseeing the build.

"I'm not fully briefed on what all of the issues are but I do know there will be no handing over of the hospital until all of the earthquake issues are remediated, and all of the hospital is completely up to standard and complies with all of the earthquake requirements.

"I and everybody who lives on the West Coast are very well aware of the earthquake situation, well aware, and we're not going to tolerate the building which isn't fit for purpose."

Kokshoorn said it would now be September before the hospital opened, with the migration of patients and staff and equipment out of the old, quake-prone hospital - which had been expected to begin in February - not starting until about June.

"Yes, it is alarming for us," Kokshoorn said.

"We are holding everyone to account here.

"They are assessing the extent of it right as we stand here now, and we will then get a clear picture on that over the next week.

"It will be shortly because we've kicked up about it, we're saying we need a full report, we need to know."

Barker has met with Fletcher and the Health Ministry.

"My expectations are that these issues will be fixed and fixed fast, and fixed completely ... there'll be no compromise on that."

The construction industry in New Zealand has a long history of not designing the right non-structural seismic restraints, or not installing them properly.

National Party West Coast spokesperson Maureen Pugh said many small and avoidable mistakes had already caused big disruptions.

"If some of this design work has now put the building itself below standard in terms of some of that earthquake strengthening, someone's got some big questions to answer now."

She had heard about gib left exposed to the rain, and the roof being put on which blocked a stairwell from being fitted, and electricians ordered to put 100 plugs in the right place according to the plans but the wrong place according to being able to work, she said.

Subcontractors had also told her they had not been paid on time - or at all - she said.

"The Ministry of Health, of course, have driven this project and they've been responsible for the design.

"They're the ones that agreed the shortlist of contractors who could get into that, and that's a whole other story.

"But I can tell you the locals with the competence to have done that build are just rolling their eyes now, going 'I told you so'."

In a statement, Fletcher Construction said it was continuing to work collaboratively with the Ministry of Health on completing the hospital in Greymouth as soon as possible.

"We continue to pay our subcontractors in accordance with the terms of their contracts," it said.

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