Govt takes control of Perth Children's Hospital

20/04/2017 - 14:46

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The state government has taken control of the trouble-plagued Perth Children’s Hospital to solve what it believes is the cause of the ongoing lead contamination problem.

Ben Wyatt (left) and Roger Cook say it is costing the state $6 million each month the hospital remains closed. Photo: Attila Csaszar

The state government has taken control of the trouble-plagued Perth Children’s Hospital to solve what it believes is the cause of the ongoing lead contamination problem.

Health Minister Roger Cook and Treasurer Ben Wyatt told reporters today that, after testing the three potential sources of lead contamination on the new facility, the state government had a firm belief that corrosion of the 5,000 brass fittings in the hospital was the cause.

However, this continues to be disputed by head contractor John Holland, which has argued that the water is being delivered to the site already containing the harmful metal.

The state government has awarded John Holland a certificate of practical completion so it can take control of the site and make decisions on remedying what it believes is the cause.

That remedy is a phosphate solution, at a cost of $120,000, to pump into the pipes and clear out the lead.

“We expect results to be found in one to two weeks thereafter, but the phosphate process will continue over the next 18 months to ensure that the brass fittings are well and truly covered in terms of stopping the dezincification process,” Mr Wyatt said.

“By issuing practical completion the state now has control of the hospital, and the Department of Health now has unconstrained access to commence that process.”

The hospital will be able to be used while phosphate is injected into the pipes over that timeframe.

Mr Wyatt said John Holland would still be liable for the costs incurred by the lead issue, but the state would take the initial cost hit associated with the phosphate purchase and implementation.

Mr Cook said following the initial implementation of the phosphate the water would be checked by the chief health officer to ensure that the water no longer contained above-acceptable lead levels, at which point a 10-14 week commissioning process would begin.

“By putting the phosphate solution through the pipes, we are very confident we will ultimately resolve the source of lead contamination,” he said.

Mr Wyatt told reporters that it was costing the state $6 million a month for the hospital to not be in operation, which doesn’t include the $500,000 a month that’s paid to Capella Parking to maintain the new – currently unused – parking facilities at the site.

“That’s above and beyond ... the empty hospital bills and the costs at Princess Margaret Hospital with staff that are obviously there a lot longer than we thought,” he said.

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