Flammable cladding concern at major Melbourne hospitalDocuments tabled at PAEC showed a six-month blowout for an infrastructure upgrade project at the hospital’s two facilities due to ‘additional cladding rectification works’. Picture: Josie Hayden

Department of Health officials cannot confirm if flammable cladding has been removed from the Royal Melbourne Hospital despite extra time allocated for its removal.

Documents tabled at Monday’s Public Accounts and Estimates Committee (PAEC) hearing showed a six-month blowout for an infrastructure upgrade project at the hospital’s two facilities due to “additional cladding rectification works”.

The project’s “actual completed date” was listed as December 2019, instead of June 2019, but Department of Health deputy secretary for infrastructure Chris Hotham could not confirm if the cladding had been removed when questioned.

“The flammable cladding has obviously been a priority of ours in terms of identifying its locations across facilities across the state,” he said.

“We’ve done that audit – we’ve identified high-risk sites and steps are being taken to remove cladding off those sites.”

PAEC chair and Liberal Party MP Richard Riordan said flammable cladding had been an issue for “quite some time” and said it was a “worry” that the Department of Health official could not provide any certainty.

He then questioned if there was dangerous cladding inside other major metropolitan hospitals in Melbourne.

Mr Hotham said that was “not a reasonable conclusion”.

“The audit we’ve done was very much focused on what the high-risk cladding locations were and that’s to the impact in terms of say waiting areas where people are smoking cigarettes,” he said.

“There’s been an identification of the highest risk facilities and components of those facilities, and the replacement of cladding certainly targeted those areas first.

“Whilst it will take some years and effort to continue to retro fit the cladding across a range of buildings, the high-risk settings have been dealt with.”

A Victorian cladding taskforce audited more than 1100 health service and related buildings and discovered non-compliant cladding on 18 public hospital buildings.

All of the hospital buildings identified for replacement works are still safe to occupy people inside, with specialist fire engineers inspecting each hospital where cladding must be removed.

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