Clad in in­er­tia

Hos­pi­tal fire safety row


FLAMMABLE cladding sim­i­lar to that im­pli­cated in Lon­don’s tow­er­ing in­ferno tragedy re­mains on a Mel­bourne hos­pi­tal a year af­ter the Health De­part­ment in­sisted it was work­ing on removing it.

Author­i­ties say it won’t now be re­moved from the Royal Women’s Hos­pi­tal till spring.

In May last year, the then sec­re­tary of the De­part­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices, Frances Diver, told a par­lia­men­tary in­quiry it was work­ing with Mel­bourne city coun­cil on rec­ti­fi­ca­tion works.

The de­part­ment was alerted almost two years ago, as a re­sult of an au­dit af­ter a 2014 fire at the Lacrosse apart­ments in Dock­lands.

On June 14, a blaze at Lon­don’s Gren­fell Tower killed 79 peo­ple. The flames are be­lieved to have been fu­elled by com­bustible alu­minium pan­els in­stalled on the build­ing.

Op­po­si­tion health spokes­woman Mary Wooldridge said Health Min­is­ter Jill Hen­nessy had known of flammable cladding on the Royal Women’s for almost two years “but has done ab­so­lutely noth­ing about it”.

Ms Hen­nessy said an in­de­pen­dent sur­veyor had de­clared the hos­pi­tal safe for pa­tients and “fur­ther safety mea­sures have been im­ple­mented in co­op­er­a­tion with the Metropoli­tan Fire Bri­gade”.

“We’ve also worked hard to en­sure those re­spon­si­ble for the non-com­pli­ant cladding would foot the bill,” she said.

The de­part­ment wouldn’t say why the cladding was in­stalled. Plan­ning Min­is­ter Richard Wynne’s spokesman said the alu­minium com­pos­ite panel was safe, pro­vided it was used in line with reg­u­la­tions.

Mel­bourne coun­cil said 17 build­ings in its ju­ris­dic­tion were be­ing in­ves­ti­gated.

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