Concern about fungal spores in Middlemore Hospital’s mouldy buildings has prompted the nurses’ union to seek air quality data as concerns continue about Middlemore’s building problems.
The Government recently approved an extra $11.5 million of funding to repair problems relating to Middlemore’s rotting timber, leaks and mould – bringing the total cost of that project to $27.5 million. There has also been concerns raised about recent electrical outages at Counties Manukau District Health Board facilities with Health Minister David Clark requesting advice from the board about how it is managing infrastructure issues into the future.
Just prior to Easter the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) reported that its organiser Anna Majavu had met with the chief executive of CMDHB, Gloria Johnson, to discuss health risk issues of exposure to mould spores possible in a number of DHB buildings including Middlemore Hospital, the Otara Spinal Unit and the Manukau Surgery Centre.
Memo Musa, the NZNO’s chief executive said the organisation was not convinced that the mould would remain contained within the walls and that if spores became airborne that they could pose a health risk to anyone who inhaled them – particularly patients with compromised respiratory systems.
“Our delegates have reported that walls are regularly damaged and simply patched over, and we believe there is a possibility that fungal spores are being released,” said Musa.
The New Zealand Herald reported that Johnson had said soon after the building concerns going public that Counties Manukau Health had been aware that several buildings were affected by weather-tightness for some time.
But she had said expert advice was that as long as the wall spaces were not open to ventilation into the hospital, or near an air intake, patient safety would not be compromised by the fungal growth.
The New Zealand Herald also reported Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stating this week that the current building problems were due to under investment in health. “Obviously the issue of mould in the walls of Middlemore Hospital has not just happened. This is an ongoing infrastructure problem. I think to squarely place it on our shoulders … doesn’t resolve the problem and that’s what we need to do, but also ignores the fact that we’ve had significant under-investment in our health system for a consecutive number of years.”
Musa said last week that NZNO was disheartened that the budget allocated to the DHB appeared too small to cover even basic infrastructure maintenance costs. “We are now seeing the costs of underfunding of health. There has been far too much focus on balancing DHB books at the cost of maintaining and improving core hospital infrastructure.
Meanwhile in the wake of reports this week of electricity outages at CMDHB facilities the board issued a statement saying that it did not consider the DHB’s electricity supply – including Middlemore Hospital and the Manukau Superclinic – was unreliable.
A Transpower transformer issue on March 11 between 4.15pm and 5.30pm had seen a 20 second loss of essential power supply until the DHB’s generators kicked in – critical functions had continued on battery power during the 20 second gap but non-essential power systems were affected during the transformer issue leading to reduced lighting.
There was also an incident on October 9 when Middlemore’s supply cables tripped on high current and two generators in the Kidzfirst and McIndoe building failed to connect for nine minutes but critical functions continued running on batteries until the generators were activated. Circuit breakers had since been reviewed and adjusted and a remediation programme was to include replacing and upgrading circuit breakers.
The DHB said there was a third issue on April 3 2017 involving a significant fault in one of the Vector high voltage power cables supplying the Manukau Health Park leading to Vector supplying a large temporary generator for nearly two months while the original cables were replaced with larger capacity cables.