Written By: - Date published: 8:21 am, May 4th, 2018 - 87 comments
Categories: David Farrar, dpf, making shit up, Media, national, same old national, spin, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags: matthew hooton, Middlemore Hospital
Remember when news broke about how there was sewerage seeping into the walls of one of our largest hospitals?
Radio New Zealand reported the news in these rather graphic terms on March 28, 2018:
Raw sewage has been leaking into the walls of Middlemore Hospital’s Scott building, on top of all the other problems with its buildings.
The 18-year-old Scott Building houses coronary care and medical, surgical and wards for elderly people.
Counties-Manukau DHB acting chief executive Dr Gloria Johnson told Morning Report today its sewage pipes were failing because they were of a type “which deteriorates with age”.
She said pipes were probably also failing in other buildings at Middlemore, which is in the country’s highest health-need area.
“I don’t know about the cafeteria [leaking sewage] but … we think a number of buildings could have, and probably not just confined to our hospital either,” Dr Johnson said.
They expected to find more sewage problems as cladding was ripped off to get rid of rotting wall framing, she said.
It is the news that the right wanted us to forget. Matthew Hooton did his best in a Herald article titled stink surrounds sewerage story. He went through said this:
Is it too cynical to think the story may have been, at best, grossly exaggerated by the Government for political purposes?
No one seems to know anything about the sewage-in-the-cafeteria story, or where it came from, and no images have emerged despite even the lowest-paid hospital worker carrying a camera phone.
On Monday, Ardern announced her Government’s communications strategy involves drip-feeding stories of alleged public-sector underfunding by the previous Government. We can only speculate, but was the Middlemore sewage story the first?
He concluded by suggesting that this was all an invented crisis by Labour to cover up the fiscal hole which is appearing as we learn more about the state of the various Government departments.
National’s pollster followed this up by repeating the story and the smear. One of his posts “the much hyped sewage leak was a stain on the ground” was, with the benefit of hindsight, full of shit. Because further information has been released that highlights the full horror of the situation.
Radio New Zealand has responded by releasing a report provided to the Counties Manukau DHB that shows that in 2010 it was told in graphic terms about the problems. From Phil Pennington at Radio New Zealand:
Middlemore Hospital knew about extensive leaks, rot and mould at its main building two years before it says it did.
The Counties Manukau DHB has said it was first alerted to leaking buildings in 2012 but, in fact, it was warned in early 2010.
“The cladding system to the lower levels of the building appears to be failing,” the February 2010 report by surveyors Dalton said, after it took off cladding at five spots on the south wall of the Scott building, which also houses cardiac care.
It photographed advanced brown rot and light rot in wood frames it rated as “unsound” and described “widespread incipient decay” caused by leaking.
“The use of untreated timber and established decay at corners and sheet edges demonstrates that the [three] lower level storeys are at risk of real future failure.”
Counties Manukau DHB acting chief executive Dr Gloria Johnson said that when she told the public in March this year that they were first alerted to the leaks in 2012, she was not aware of the 2010 report.
The Dalton report includes a photo of a fece-stained first-floor sewage pipe, where leaking caused “serious damage” to framing. Board’s chair Rabin Rabindran, a board member Mark Darrow and the DHB itself have all said media reports of sewage leaks were overplayed. It’s now known there were at least four such leaks of raw sewage.
There is a photo in the story for those with a strong stomach.
Then facilities manager Greg Simpson asked for funding to deal with what he thought was an urgent problem but this was declined.
Mr Simpson said he reported the issue in 2010, asked for funding to do urgent repairs and for a more comprehensive report, but nothing happened.
“I expected to get funding for what I would call fundamental failures… the failure of that cladding was fundamental. We never got that sort of funding.
“Clinical priorities took precedence. At the time they were between a rock and a hard place – they still are.”
A comprehensive report was only ordered when a cladding panel fell off the Scott building in 2012.
And in further related news Radio New Zealand has disclosed that the then chair of the Canterbury DHB signed a letter drafted by the Ministry of Health stating that his board needed no extra funding even though he knew it had an urgent need of further funds.
From the article:
The Health Ministry drafted a letter which the chair of the cash-strapped Canterbury District Health board then sent to the government saying it could work with existing funding.
Information obtained by Checkpoint under the Official Information Act shows that in December 2015, the DHB’s then-chairman Murray Cleverley sent a letter to the health and finance ministers, having received an identical draft of the letter from the Ministry of the Health the previous day.
The DHB’s chief executive and the Ministry of Health were aware of the letter, but none of the board members knew.
Board members have told Checkpoint they could not believe it when they learnt what had happened and would have never agreed to the letter being sent.
The DHB was under intense financial pressure following the Christchurch earthquakes, and desperately needed more money, they said.
On 10 December, 2015, national health board acting national director Michael Hundleby sent an email to CDHB’s chairman at the time, Murray Cleverley.
It included a letter, which Mr Hundleby told Mr Cleverley was the “draft letter below we were going to discuss today”.
That letter, released to Checkpoint under the Official Information Act, was for the health minister and finance minister of the time, and said the DHB understood the Crown’s expectation to manage its capital spending within existing funds.
The very next day, Mr Cleverley sent the exact letter (only changing CDHB to Canterbury DHB, and ‘yours sincerely’ to ‘kind regards’) on CDHB letterhead to then-Health Minister Jonathan Coleman and then-Finance Minister Bill English.
It stated: “The Canterbury DHB acknowledges the Crown’s expectation that the capital redevelopment programme governed by the Hospital Redevelopment Partnership Group; the earthquake programme of works; as well as DHB ‘business as usual’ capital spending will be managed within existing crown funding; and Canterbury DHB’s own resources.”
Effectively, he was telling them the DHB did not need more money, despite knowing the DHB was under significant financial pressure, including the costs associated with demolishing 44 buildings.
No one on the board apart from the Chairperson knew about the letter.
It is great that there is a new progressive Government. But it is going to take years to fix up the physical and financial mess that National has left us.