Circuit breakers contribute to Middlemore‘s power problems

Circuit breakers that need upgrading and a generator at the KidzFirst children‘s hospital that didn‘t kick in when it should have have contributed to Middlemore Hospital‘s

Middlemore hospital Photo: Google Maps

The Counties Manukau District Health Board (DHB) said the main hospital site in Ōtāhūhū had power cuts in October last year and again on 11 March this year.

That‘s on top of a major power failure at its Manukau Superclinic a year ago, which it confirmed after a tipoff to RNZ.

In the 9 October cut, emergency lighting came on for nine minutes because two generators including one at the KidzFirst children‘s hospital and another at the McIndoe Building, which houses the national burns centre, did not start up as they should when the mains power went out.

That was “due to various control issues”, the DHB said today.

“CM Health does not consider that the electrical power supply to CMDHB facilities, including Middlemore Hospital and the Manukau Superclinic, is unreliable,” it said.

The October cut was caused by high voltage cables tripping, but critical functions were covered by back-up battery power.

The circuit breakers had been adjusted, and the breakers themselves would be upgraded under a remediation programme that consultants had begun looking into, the board said.

The 11 March power cut happened when Transpower had a transformer problem affecting large parts of Mangere.

Six hospital generators kicked in to supply essential power systems.

“The patients and staff saw a 20 second loss of essential power supply before the generators took over,” the board said.

“Non-essential power systems were affected from 4.15pm to 5.30pm. This would have been obvious through reduced lighting.”

At the Manukau Superclinic and surgery, one of two high-voltage lines failed in April 2017, right underneath the building. It couldn‘t be fixed.

The hospital juggled generators with mains supply until both high-voltage cables had been replaced eight weeks later, with higher-capacity ones “which will also cater for future electrical load at Manukau Health Park”.

“CMDHB has ongoing projects to further increase resilience of the power system,” the board said, citing budgets of $1 million this year and $2 million next year.

Middlemore‘s former facilities manager Greg Simpson said the power supply systems had been at risk for years due to underfunding of maintenance while demand had skyrocketed, and the board had been warned about it.