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Hutt Valley Health Services faces uncertainty after the hospital was deemed earthquake-prone

Hutt Valley Health Services faces uncertainty after the hospital was deemed earthquake-prone


Written by Rosie Gordon RNZ

Wellington health services face uncertainty as the chiefs of Hutt Hospital work out when to close the hospital’s main building.

Haute County Health Board told employees yesterday that the Heretaunga Block building, which contains maternity, pediatric, cardiology, burn, general orthopedic and orthopedic wards, is earthquake-prone and patients will have to be moved outside while it is being repaired.

The building has 210 beds and represents 25 percent of physical capacity across Hutt, Kenepuru and Wellington hospitals.

DHB says the risks are low for patients and staff and is working on a plan for where multiple services can go. There may also be temporary buildings erected.

Sarah Dwan is 32 weeks pregnant and planning to give birth at Hutt Hospital but is now unsure of where she will deliver her baby.

“It’s very disconcerting and disturbing for residents about where they would actually go to safely deliver their babies if home birth wasn’t an option. It’s really hard because it’s like you’ve had this bomb but you don’t know I’m going to be affected by this,” she said.

Duane is concerned about the lack of options for expecting parents at Hutt, especially after the maternity unit closed last year.

“Wellington Hospital is only 20 minutes away, or 12 minutes in a quick ambulance, but it still affects how you feel about getting help while in Hutt it’s only about six minutes from the hospital,” she said.

The Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Professionals, Sarah Dalton, expects health services in the Wellington area to be affected.

“I’ve heard that they are looking at private residential and geriatric care as long-term discharge options and I’m sure it will affect Kenepuru and Wellington hospitals as well.”

Dalton also feared that Hutt would join the list of hospitals across the country awaiting building upgrades.

“One of our concerns is that there’s already a backlog of hospitals being built, reconstructed and refurbished, which is dragging joints, so we can’t really afford to have another hospital on the waiting list,” she said.

The 40-year-old Heretaunga Block has an earthquake rating of somewhere below 34 percent of the new building standard.

Nick Brock, an engineer and concrete expert at Compusoft Engineering, said that while this type of rating isn’t very dangerous day in and day out, it appears the hospital building has been evaluated to a high standard.

“As an engineer, I wouldn’t have any particular concerns about being in an earthquake-prone building on any given day, be it a hospital or otherwise. Part of the reason for this is that this has been rated as a very high-importance building. What that really means is that for a given earthquake magnitude a building is relatively safer than the same score applied to a normal office building, for example. So it’s a very subtle case,” Brock said.

The chief executive of the district health board declined to be interviewed about the plan for patients and services.

Hospital “a well down” building level – Chris Bishop

Chris Bishop, an MP for the National List, based in Hot South, said he learned in the hours after the announcement that the building represented only 15 percent of the new building standard.

“It’s well below the accepted number,” he said, and it was unclear what that meant and if there were other assessments. “Sometimes there is a little bit of delay and progress around accurate assessments, engineers disagree. [They] Need to find consensus – this has happened with a lot of other buildings.”

Bishop said that with 79 percent of bed capacity in Lower Hut and 25 percent of available beds in the area, a quick decision needs to be made as to whether to repair, replace or have another option.

“DHB has not been upfront about the exact information they showed.”

Campbell Barry, the mayor of Lower Haute, told the Morning Report that DHB needed to stand up and determine the percentage of the building.

“It’s often very complex – it might be certain parts of the building. All this information should be in the public domain.”

“It’s better to be transparent in these situations.”

He understood that the plan for where the services would go would go live on June 22nd.

Hot South MP Jenny Andersen said DHB had only received information recently, on May 13, and was acting quickly.

“As with the other buildings in Wellington, they have a period of time to correct it, but I understand it will move very quickly.”

Andersen said she had received assurances from government ministers that they were committed to having a fully operational hospital in the Hat Valley.

“While there may be disruptions in the short term, the government is committed to ensuring that the Hut Valley maintains good quality hospital facilities that are new or better than those we have,” Andersen said. Couldn’t give a time frame or cost.

The chief executive of the district health board declined to be interviewed about the plan for patients and services.





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