Asbestos found in wall at Royal Hobart Hospital, Minister confirms

Material disturbed at the Royal Hobart Hospital construction site last week has been confirmed as containing asbestos.

A tradesmen disturbed the vinyl cladding in a wall at D-Block, causing alarm as it was a similar material to that found in a ceiling in a different building the week before.

The first incident forced the relocation of 40 staff to another part of the hospital and prompted union calls for a safety audit.

Health Minister Michael Ferguson was advised on Monday morning that testing of the wall cladding revealed there was asbestos present.

“In fact a single fibre was identified in the sample that was tested,” he said.

“I’m also advised that the worker who performed this work was properly protected and I’m further advised that there is no risk to public health on this.”

Mr Ferguson said the presence of asbestos demonstrated the need for the redevelopment.

“The risks of coming in to contact with asbestos have been identified since day one,” he said.

“We’ve been very transparent about this. There’s no surprises here, it was expected based on prior knowledge that we need to be extra careful when going near those particular types of vinyl cladding.”

Opposition Leader Bryan Green said he was not satisfied that staff were not at risk.

“To find one fibre, I think is unusual in the extreme,” he said.

The Health Minister said the risk of disturbing more asbestos would always be appropriately managed.

The hospital redevelopment has been beset with issues since it began, with major cost blowouts and mould found in a temporary building designed to house patients during construction.