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.