Construction workers have developed respiratory illnesses after being exposed to “potentially deadly mould” at the Royal Hobart Hospital, the state Opposition has alleged.
Builders at the hospital have been putting together a demountable building as part of construction work at the site.
The completion of the demountable has been plagued by delays after mould was discovered in at least 18 out of the 64 modules.
The $22 million building is designed to house patients while a major hospital redevelopment continues, but the building is yet to be declared fit for purpose.
Opposition leader Bryan Green has now claimed in state parliament an “illness cluster” has been identified among builders working on the demountable.
“These workers are now suffering respiratory conditions because you allowed them to be exposed to potentially deadly mould,” he said.
He told parliament sick workers had been sent home and work shut down.
“Anyone on the site must now wear a fully protective suit,” Mr Green said.
Health Minister Michael Ferguson told parliament he was not aware of the allegations.
“I’m not going to add to the speculation in the absence of facts,” he said
“I’m happy to look into it, I certainly will look into it, but Madame Speaker as the customer of this project, we want it to continue and be successful.”
Mr Ferguson said it was the responsibility of the construction firm to keep their workers safe.
It is unclear how many workers have become ill.
Labor raised roof and mould problems with the demountables in early April.
In a previous Question Time, Labor’s health spokeswoman Rebecca White revealed mould had been discovered in 18 out of 64 modules in the temporary building and the roof needed to be replaced.
She questioned when patients would be able to move in, reminding the Health Minister he had said clinical services would begin to move in by January.
Mr Ferguson assured Tasmanians then that no patients would be moved until the building was declared safe but did not say when that would be.
“The patients [are] our first concern, not arbitrary deadlines,” he said.
The cost of the repairs required will be covered by the contractor.
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has described the Royal Hobart Hospital as a “building site”, where it has become more stressful because of the problems with temporary buildings.
The AMA’s Tim Greenaway said the problems were not affecting patient care, but the buildings could not be used, and it added to the stress of working on a “building site”.
Fairbrother, a partner in the upgrade of the Royal Hobart Hospital, has promised to fix roof and panel damage that has led to water and mould damage in some of the demountables.
— Rosemary Bolger (@rose_bolger) April 26, 2016