Material which was disturbed at the construction site of the new Royal Hobart Hospital has been confirmed as asbestos as dangers associated with what is currently the largest dollar value construction project in Tasmania continues to come to light.
Following the discovery of material similar to that found in a ceiling in a different building which necessitated the temporary relocation of staff around a week earlier, Health Minister Michael Ferguson has confirmed the material in question did in fact contain asbestos.
According to Ferguson, a single fibre was identified in the sample which was tested, and the individual who performed the work in question was adequately protected whilst there was no danger to public health arising out of the incident.
Long considered a critical project from a health perspective, the $689 million redevelopment of the Royal Hobart Hospital will deliver a new ten storey inpatient precinct and a new cancer centre as well as new facilities including a new outpatient clinic, a new medical imaging facility and a new assessment and planning unit.
Its construction, however, has been dogged by delays and cost blowouts along with the discovery of mold in a temporary building which had been designed to house patients throughout the course of the construction process.
The latest move follows earlier calls from Unions Tasmania for a complete audit of all areas of construction throughout the hospital – moves the union’s Kevin Harkins says are necessary because of a current reliance on old and potentially out of date asbestos registers to determine exposure.
Whilst the latest incident obviously relates to the redevelopment of an older building which was built before asbestos was banned in Australia, it also follows the discovery of asbestos within roof panels imported from China on another major hospital at Perth.
The use of asbestos containing materials was banned throughout Australia but there are growing fears about products which contain the material being imported from places such as China and India.
In regard to the latest discovery, Ferguson said risks associated with asbestos had been well known since the start of the redevelopment and the need for care had been clearly identified up-front.