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Hospital quake shock

Wairarapa Hospital PHOTO/FILE

Reports find main building fails to meet standards
Work begins to brace equipment in ceiling

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Parts of Wairarapa Hospital’s main building have failed to measure up to new earthquake standards.

Reports commissioned by Wairarapa District Health Board assessed the main hospital building against standards that were raised after the Christchurch and Kaikoura earthquakes.

These found that while the building is in the same state it was when opened in 2006, it did not meet standards requiring hospitals to be operational within one hour of a major earthquake,

Hospitals are required to meet the highest earthquake rating, importance level 4 [IL4].

DHB chief executive Adri Isbister said no part of the building was off-limits.

“Our provisional reports have not indicated that the building is dangerous, so we are not aware of any risk,” she said.

“We haven’t even identified potential hazards yet.”

Two separate engineering reports were carried out at the hospital, the second completed on June 14.

While they were still being reviewed, Isbister said work began on Monday to address areas of concern involving equipment in the ceiling.

“There are services and mechanical plant in the ceilings of the hospital that need extra bracing, so the engineers are working on that now.

“We have also commissioned an extra peer review [of the reports],” she said.

“The engineers were in the ceiling cavity working on a design solution [on Monday], but also doing any remedial work in terms of plant and equipment that may not be restrained in a way in which it needs to
be restrained.”

At this stage, it is expected that hospital services will continue as usual while the remedial work is finished, but hospital management has not ruled out the potential for some temporary service disruption.

When asked if the results were surprising, she said – “it was, and it wasn’t”.

“Obviously the standards have changed after Christchurch and Kaikoura.

“What it did, was galvanise us to take action.”

She said the building had been up and running for 12 years, during which time there had been several earthquakes.

But she could not say how soon after a major earthquake the hospital would be up and running as the building’s actual IL rating yet to be determined.

The peer review was expected to be made available in several weeks.

“It is important for patients and staff to understand our situation is the same now as when the hospital was built, as nothing in the building has changed.

“What has changed is the building compliance requirements and we are working to meet these.

“In the unlikely event of a one-in-500-year earthquake, as things are in the building at present, we might not be able to function in our hospital within the one hour timeframe required of an IL4 building.”

In 2017, Masterton District Council asked the DHB to carry out engineering reviews of the building as part of its responsibility in identifying potentially earthquake-prone buildings in the district.

As the hospital was recognised as a critical building for the community, it wanted to ascertain its compliance as soon as practicable.

The council is working with the DHB to understand the status of the building and assessing how it can best provide support in the current situation.

Council acting chief executive David Hopman, who is the assets and operations manager, said he had limited information to hand.

He had not yet seen the reports commissioned by the DHB, so could not yet say how the community may be affected.

“We need to understand what we need to do and then get on and do it.

“We’ll work with the DHB to address those things as soon as possible.”

Wairarapa Labour list MP Kieran McAnulty said the news was “deeply concerning”.

It was surprising as the building was “relatively new”, but it was good to see the DHB’s “proactive” approach in ensuring the hospital remained open during remedial works, while prioritising patient and staff safety.

McAnulty also said the DHB had been “fully transparent” and in constant communication with the office of the Minister of Health.

He was to meet the DHB today to discuss the matter.

National’s Wairarapa MP Alastair Scott said it was good to see the DHB taking its seismic compliance and health and safety issues seriously.

“They’re being open and transparent about it, and I’m sure they’ll do their best to make sure their services aren’t interrupted, or at least that interruptions are kept to a minimum.”

The facts
* $30m building opened in May 2006
* 92 beds
* Building remains open and in use
* No areas off-limits
* Work under way to brace ceiling equipment

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