DHB message on Hutt Hospital safety ‘unacceptable’ – mayor

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The main tower of Hutt Hospital got some reprieve after engineers discovered that only part of the building was prone to earthquakes.

Hutt Hospital (file photo)
Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

This means services may not have to move as soon as planned, and the confusion has infuriated the town’s mayor.

The Heretaunga block was declared earthquake prone last month.

It contains the children’s ward, maternity ward, coronary care unit, and other departments and services.

With 210 beds, it represents a quarter of the physical capacity of Hutt, Kenepuru and Wellington hospitals.

An initial assessment in March and released last month said the entire building was only 15% of code, meaning services should move as soon as possible.

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However, a new technical review published today shows that only the facade – the exterior concrete panels – of the block is rated as low.

Despite this, the Hutt Valley DHB said the building was still prone to earthquakes and services should still be moved, but possibly later than planned.

Lower Hutt Mayor Campbell Barry said the DHB confused the public.

“It is simply unacceptable that people were told last month that everything had to get out of the building as soon as possible, and now they are being told that most will be there for an indefinite period, but clearly a longer period of time.

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“Public trust has been undermined in the building because of the process and the way they handled it.”

Hutt City Mayor Campbell Barry.

Campbell Barry, Mayor of Lower Hutt (file photo)
Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

In a statement, the DHB said the result did not change the overall condition of the building.

“With an element always at 15% [of code], the building is still considered earthquake-prone under the law. The other elements are considered seismic risks.

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“We therefore recommend that Council confirm our earlier decision to move services out of the building as soon as reasonably possible.”

A building is considered “seismic risk” if it is rated between 34% and 67% of code.

Less than 34 percent are considered “earthquake prone.”

Buildings rated between 34 and 67 percent of code have an approximate risk to life between five and 10 times that of a similar new building.

The DHB will release the new engineering report on Monday, June 20.

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