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Hospitals face flammable cladding fears

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The Victorian Building Authority (VBA) says two Melbourne hospitals have used non-compliant building cladding in construction.

The VBA is auditing 170 CBD buildings following a serious fire at the Lacrosse apartments in Docklands in November. The fire spread rapidly along an aluminium composite cladding that was imported from China and not tested to Australian standards.

The Royal Women’s Hospital has commissioned combustibility tests on the material that makes up about 10% of its facade.

However, the Fire Protection Association Australia told it does not believe patients are at risk.

“This is not the same product that was used on the Lacrosse building,” CEO Scott Williams said. “And the hospital is not a vertical tower. It is a sprawling, spread-out facility.”

Mr Williams says the product used is well known and respected, but it appears the wrong type has been used.

He says the Department of Health has rigorous fire safety measures in place, over and above Building Code of Australia requirements, but these were introduced after the Royal Women’s Hospital was constructed.

“It doesn’t surprise us that non-compliant cladding has been found on hospitals, but the Department of Health is doing the right thing in testing it, and it says it will take it off if necessary.”

A Department of Health and Human Services spokesman says fire testing will be carried out and further documentation sought. “Following access to these documents and their review, the department will take appropriate steps to ensure compliance.”

The VBA has also reported non-compliant cladding at the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre, which is under construction.

Plenary Health, which has been contracted to build and maintain the centre, told the issue relates to a small number of low-risk areas on walkways.