Secret document reveals critical failings at Westmead Hospital

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A secret NSW Government internal report has revealed crucial infrastructure is failing at Westmead Hospital - with staff warning of serious structural issues, asbestos, lice in ceilings and serious security risks.

In response to questions from the Labor Opposition in Budget Estimates, Health Minister Jillian Skinner described the list of critical infrastructure issues at the hospital as merely a “wish list”.

The Minister also said the most important part of fixing the hospital was to build a car park, telling the hearing:

“The first step in upgrading a hospital is making sure you have the car park right.”
(23 August 2013, Budget Estimates)

The secret document – obtained by the Labor Opposition under FOI – highlights the dangerous and critical failings in the Hospital, with the document stating:

“It is now in poor condition and the infrastructure is failing. This is leading to high levels of clinical service interruption, inappropriate working environments and excessive maintenance expenditure.” (pi)

Issues identified by the secret document include:
• Birds entering and dropping lice through the ceiling and into the hospital;
• Asbestos cracking and falling out of the roof;
• Significant water damage and inadequate stormwater systems; and
• Rotted sections of guttering.

“This is an extremely alarming report given Westmead is one of the state’s busiest hospitals – yet the only solution from the Health Minister is to plan a new car park,” Shadow Health Minister Dr Andrew McDonald said.

“This is what happens when you cut $3 billion from our hospital network – hospitals fall apart and patient safety is put at risk.

“The document clearly says if the issues are not fixed there is the risk of staff injury, increased infection rates and an inability to meet Australian standards.

“Despite the O’Farrell Government having this report since June last year – they have taken no action and there is no money for a planned upgrade of Westmead Hospital.”

Labor’s Luke Foley said the report also highlighted a growing demand for birthing services at Westmead and noted there is a risk of “lack of birthing capacity to meet demand, increased hospitalisations, increased infection rates, increased length of stay”.

“There is not a brass razoo of money allocated by the O’Farrell Government to fix the hospital apart of planning for a new car park,” Mr Foley said.

“Jillian Skinner thinks the lack of birthing capacity at Westmead can be addressed by a new car park,” Mr Foley said.