9 Apr 2018

Coleman says documents show he didn't know about hospital rot

6:03 pm on 9 April 2018

Former Health Minister Jonathan Coleman says documents show he was not warned about rotting buildings at Middlemore Hospital in South Auckland.

Jonathan Coleman.

Former Health Minister Jonathan Coleman Photo: The Wireless: RNZ/Claire Eastham-Farrelly

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.

Earlier today, National Party leader Simon Bridges told Morning Report Dr Coleman did not know about Middlemore's building problems.

"Now should he have known? Yeah. And it should be interesting to understand what has happened there."

He rejected the suggestion it was a failure of ministerial oversight.

In a blog post this afternoon Dr Coleman said he had been reviewing a couple of "very pertinent" documents.

"It's just not credible to say that Middlemore Building problems were widely known about and I would have known," he wrote.

This claim that was made in late March to Morning Report by former Counties Manukau District Health Board chair Lee Mathias.

"Most people in Wellington knew of the situation Middlemore was in," she said then.

She also said the state of the buildings was covered in board minutes that were publicly available. However, the DHB has blocked the release of these minutes to RNZ under the Official Information Act.

Middlemore Hospital

Middlemore Hospital Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

Dr Coleman said his review of the transcript of when Counties Manukau DHB appearing before the Health Select Committee on 21 February found "no mention of the problems with buildings that have been revealed in the past few weeks".

"Surely if the building problems were known about the DHB chair and acting CEO would have been screaming it from the rooftops at select committee?" he wrote in his blog.

"... and if they didn't know about it, how could a minister know?"

The second document he said he looked at was the Auditor-General's report from in mid-2016 on DHBs' response to asset management requirements since 2009.

It showed the Counties Manukau reporting it had a lot of life left in its buildings - 89 percent.

"That's the second lowest of all DHBs," Dr Coleman said.

"Hardly a red flag for imminent buildings problems at Middlemore."

Dr Coleman hung up on Morning Report when he was asked on 23 March about what he knew about rot at Middlemore.

Mr Bridges told Morning Report today he expected MPs to front up.

"Jonathan is retiring, he did what he did, but to be very clear, do I generally expect my Members of Parliament to come on and answer difficult, fair questions from you? Yes, I do."

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