Architectural glass, plastic, and metal coating will be banned from all new or renovated hospital buildings in Australia under a federal health warning that could cost hospitals millions of dollars in repairs.
Key points:The Federal Government has put out a warning that new and renovated hospitals will be at greater risk of mold and mildewIf mould is found, the cost could be hugeHospitals are already at heightened risk of mildew and mold because of the harsh Australian summer that can trigger outbreaks.
Under the National Health Strategy, which was announced in May, hospitals will have to be able to “assess risk and develop preventive measures to reduce risk and reduce illness, particularly when the exposure levels are higher”.
In Australia, the health warning is a significant step towards mandating the use of the three protective coatings.
“The use of structural glass and structural plastic is a highly risk-averse approach and is not acceptable in new or refurbished facilities,” the Federal Government said in a statement on Wednesday.
The warning applies to hospitals that have opened since July 1.
The National Health Board has advised hospitals that “the use of glass, plastics and metal has been associated with significant problems in the past, including mould, mildew, mild and other problems”.
“There are now more than 80 reports of mold in existing and refurbished hospitals in Australia,” it said.
“There is also evidence of a range of other health issues, including mildew.”
In a statement, the Australian Medical Association said the use or import of structural plastic was an “irresponsible” approach and would be “a significant burden on the health system”.
“We support a full and rigorous regulatory regime for structural glass, and we believe that the National High Level Policy on Structural Glass should apply to this type of material as well,” it added.
“Structural glass is an environmentally and economically sound material that minimises health risks, including those that are caused by mold and other organisms.”
The Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) said the warning could have “serious consequences” for new and existing hospitals in NSW and Victoria, which already have strict rules on structural glass.
“A significant number of hospitals are using structural glass that is not as protective as they should be,” AMSA chief executive, Dr Steve Lachance, said.
The AMSA said a “significant number” of hospitals had recently reported mold, mildews and mild illness in their buildings.
“While the current risk is low, a greater risk exists for the health of patients who are already ill or those coming into hospital,” he said.
It also said the AMSA was concerned about the “very high” number of hospital staff using structural plastic.
“We need to ensure that we have all the proper precautions in place to minimise the potential risks to health and the environment in hospitals,” he added.
The PM says the new guidelines are a step in the right direction.
“This guidance is a good start and will be of significant benefit to hospitals, but the guidelines are not a replacement for an extensive review of the structural glass industry,” he told the ABC.
The health warning comes just days after the Australian College of General Practitioners (ACGP) said it had found “significant evidence” of mould and mildews in hospitals in the state of NSW and Victorian.
The ACGP said it was now urging all hospitals to install the new protective coating as soon as possible.
“These findings have serious implications for the future of our health system and the health and wellbeing of our patients, staff and visitors,” Dr Daniel Hupp, chief executive of the ACGP, said in an email.
“Building codes, health and safety requirements, and building management practices must all be reviewed to ensure we have the right protective coating for our buildings.”
The ACGPs guidelines state that the coating must be used in the same place as the original structure.
“Where the coating is used in conjunction with the original building structure, it is a non-occupational hazard,” the ACGPS said.
However, it says that “when the building has changed ownership or is vacant, the coatings can become part of the building structure and should be removed when no longer required”.
The new guidelines also warn that if the coating “does not meet the design requirements for the building and the building manager does not remove it, the risk of mould may increase”.
The ACGs guidelines say that if a building has a structure that is more than 1 metre (3.5 metres) tall, it must have a minimum of 30cm (13.7 inches) of structural steel on the exterior of the structure.