TESTS to confirm whether a type of concrete, which has caused major safety concerns in the UK, is present in the Hospital were due to begin today.
Late last week the government revealed that following an ‘exhaustive investigation’, it believed Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) could be present in four areas of the building.
The material – widely used between the 1950s and 1990s – is lighter and much cheaper than standard concrete and has a shorter lifespan of about 30 years.
During the summer, scores of public facilities containing RAAC in the UK, including more than 100 schools, were forced to shut buildings following concerns that they were structurally unsafe.
However, Deputy Tom Binet said any structural collapse at the Hospital was ‘unlikely’ and stressed that it was not yet confirmed whether RAAC was present in the building.
Speaking to the JEP yesterday, he said structural engineers were today due to begin physical tests in the Hospital building, to conclusively determine whether the material was present.
He said the four suspect areas related to two parts of the pathology department – including a staff laboratory – as well as the old kitchens, which are now used as a storage room, as well as part of ‘F Block’.
Commenting on whether the hospital remained safe, he said that ‘there are no 100% guarantees’ but that a structural collapse was ‘unlikely’.
‘At the moment there have been no restrictions [on public access] imposed,’ he explained.
‘I do know that the team are working on contingencies so they have an active plan going forward in the event that the tests come back positive.
‘The judgment call is to whether you cause more damage by interrupting the operations of the hospital to ensure patient safety, or keep the hospital operating in the hope that things will be as they have been for the past 30 years and remain safe.
‘There is no right answer to that.’
Commenting on whether the ‘contingencies’ would involve structural changes to the building, he added: ‘It all depends on the span, the location, the ability to put supporting pillars in. As yet I’m not sure these [locations] relate to wall panels, ceiling panels or another area – all of that will become apparent.’
Deputy Binet continued: ‘It is very unfortunate that the first suspicions of RAAC happen to be here.
‘It is a judgment call, but nothing has happened in 30 years and it would be very unfortunate if, in the next week, everything decided to collapse. If I had a hospital appointment this week I certainly wouldn’t miss it on this basis. I don’t want to make comparisons but I think you are much more likely to get knocked over by a car when you walk out of the hospital than to be knocked down by a collapse [inside].’