A straight-shooting report has labelled Wellington Hospital’s electrical infrastructure at “high risk of catastrophic failure” and says patient and staff safety is at “extreme” risk.
Capital & Coast District Health Board (CCDHB) has released, under the Official Information Act, a resilience report into its Wellington Hospital infrastructure and energy centre.
The report, from June 2017, paints a dire picture of tired infrastructure with “high potential” for a complete outage to the hospital in a major emergency.
But the health board’s corporate services general manager Thomas Davis said people could be assured they would receive emergency and acute health services in the event of a mains outage.
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“We have sought, and are acting on, independent advice to improve the resilience of our electrical systems,” he said in a statement.
The June report noted the emergency generators at the hospital were considered to be at the end of their economic life.
“Based on the age, condition and recent equipment failures, we consider that there is a high risk of a catastrophic failure of the site electrical infrastructure, potentially leading to complete loss of power to critical buildings, potentially jeopardising patient safety.”
Most of the critical components in the electrical infrastructure were wearing out, as evidenced by “recent failures and degradation of the site emergency generators”.
But the risk of complete failure was “moderate” because it would rely on the mains and generator power both failing.
Furthermore, degraded high-voltage cabling posed “extreme health and safety risks to site staff and patients”.
The building housing the back-up generators had a roofing membrane at the end of its expected life. It was at risk of allowing major leakage, which could get into equipment “resulting in equipment failure”.
The Aecom report recommended a complete upgrade of high-voltage electrical infrastructure and stand-by generation be done as soon as possible. In August, the health board was told that a procurement process was underway to look at options.
In July this year, Stuff revealed that one of the hospital’s four generators had been decommissioned since “catastrophic” failure in 2015, and the remaining three had suffered problems in many of their past 12 test runs.
In July, the health board said it was satisfied it could maintain power after a big earthquake.
The new information shows that, on top of the tired generators, the hospital’s mains power comes in via a single connection beside Mein St. That arrangement “presents a risk of complete loss of utility to the site”, the report says.
The hospital’s life-crucial and some emergency equipment can run on battery for a period, but the Aecom report pointed out this was only meant to be short-term until the generators began working.
The health board was told by its staff last year that a “short-term” work programme had begun, though some risks could only be addressed in a larger redevelopment.
Those immediate solutions included talking to lines company Wellington Electricity, factoring in risks associated with the new children’s hospital and other developments.
The hospital would also maintain maintenance programmes, do emergency response planning, and look at buying technical solutions.
Those short-term solutions, “initiated in the coming months and delivered over the next three years” came with a $300,000 to $500,000 price tag.
A spokesman for Health Minister David Clark said it was an operational matter and the Minister was not available to comment.
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