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The Southern District Health Board is yet to spend most of $20 million given to it more than two years ago for earthquake strengthening Dunedin Hospital buildings.
None of the SDHB’s hospitals are considered earthquake prone, but the upgrade work was regarded as essential so they could continue to function until replaced by the new hospital, the construction of which has only just started.
A report to the SDHB in February 2020 said that there were so many issues which affected the current hospital buildings, and especially the ward block, that it would cost more to fix them than the $1.4 billion budgeted to build the new hospital.
SDHB corporate services executive director Nigel Trainor said the board had so far spent $1.2 million of the March 2020 funding from the Ministry of Health.
"Some of our resources were reallocated to asbestos remediation work first, since this created access problems for consultants and contractors," he said.
"The majority of this remediation work was completed in 2021."
Delays in making further progress had been caused by a range of factors, including staff turnover, and challenges relating to Covid-19.
"Delivery of capital projects has been identified as a key challenge in the SDHB, and a recent restructure of the department, alongside the creation of a new programme management office, is expected to address these challenges," Mr Trainor said.
After the asbestos removal, work had been done in both the ward block and clinical services building to repair leaks, and urgent electrical works had also been done in the psych services and clinical services buildings.
"We’ve also completed some consultancy work for various projects so that we can procure contractors for physical works, and all projects relating to passive fire remediation are under way," Mr Trainor said.
Work on the pipes in the buildings also had to be done before seismic restraint projects could begin.
"These critical infrastructure projects have been split into over 50 separate packages of work, some of which need to be completed before others can commence.
"To date, three projects are complete, and a further 19 are in progress."
Law changes in 2016 required building owners to upgrade earthquake prone buildings, with structures in regions deemed more likely to be at risk of experiencing a major shake having the earliest deadline for that work to be done.
The South is rated to be at low risk of a quake, and its deadline for seismic work to be completed falls after the new hospital is scheduled to be finished.
However, several northern hospitals are now facing an urgent need to get strengthening work done and numerous health boards, including Hutt Hospital and Wellington Hospital, are considering closing or moving some services from vulnerable buildings.
Hospitals are required to meet the highest seismic standard so that they can function immediately after a major earthquake.
SDHB facilities and property general manager David Bainbridge-Zafar said that all of the most recent reports undertaken by the board indicated its hospitals had a "more-than-adequate" new building standard rating.
"There certainly is not any likelihood of any of our hospitals being closed due to earthquake risk."