Combustible cladding found on Canberra’s Centenary Hospital for Women and Children
17th August 2017
There are serious questions over fire risks in Government buildings, the ACT Opposition says, after combustible cladding was found at the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children in Canberra.
The ABC understands staff at the Centenary Hospital in Woden have been made aware aluminium cladding on the multiple-story building, similar to that responsible for the catastrophic Grenfell Tower fire, poses a fire risk and will be removed over the coming weeks.
But Opposition spokeswoman Nicole Lawder said there were concerns other buildings could also be affected.
“I am absolutely dissatisfied with the Government’s response,” she said.
“It raises a very serious question – how many other Government buildings have been built with this cladding, and is there therefore a fire risk?
“People do deserve to know what the risks are in the building that they work.”
Grenfell ‘the worst scenario’
But Australian Medical Association president Steve Robson told ABC Radio Canberra that he worked at the hospital and was “shocked” to hear about the panels.
In July the ACT Government announced it would establish a taskforce to check its properties in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire in London in June, which killed at least 80 people.
The National Construction Code rules state that while the use of combustible cladding is not prohibited, medium-rise buildings or buildings close to others generally are not permitted to use cladding.
Greg McConville from the United Firefighters Union ACT branch said he was not surprised flammable cladding had been found at the hospital.
“Panels which contain polyethylene as the core are highly combustible and can flame when exposed to an ignition point,” he said.
“The worst scenario is what we saw with Grenfell Tower.”
Panels up to code when installed: Health Minister
In the statement given to the ABC, Health Minister Meegan Fitzharris said the hospital was identified as having Polyethylene Aluminium Composite Panels as a facade cladding, used in decorative panels.
She said the panels complied with the relevant building and safety codes when they were installed.
“The facade cladding panels are decorative panels that have been installed above galvanized steel and water tight and fire rated,” she said.
“Not all of the panels on the building contain the combustible polyethylene core … and therefore not all panels on the Centenary Hospital building will need to be replaced.”
She said ACT Health would also increase the frequency of fire drills.
Ms Fitzharris is expected to discuss the issue further in the ACT Legislative Assembly on Thursday.
The finding comes two weeks after it was revealed the ACT Government was warned the main switchboard at the nearby Canberra Hospital was a risk more than a year before it caught fire.
Up to 60 patients and staff were evacuated during a night in early April when a fire cut power to parts of the campus.