A collapsed Gypsum ceiling

Design flaw, monitoring lapse and construction quality to blame for Gelephu Hospital issues: Health Secretary

A recent media report has brought to fore various issues in the Gelephu Regional Hospital from collapsing ceilings, cracks in the walls, leaks and a damaged CT scan.

The Bhutanese checked with the Ministry of Health in Thimphu to find out who is responsible and who should be held accountable for the visible lapses.

The paper was referred by the Health Minister Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo to the Health Secretary Dr Ugen Dophu, who the minister said has better institutional memory on the issue.

The Secretary said that the people who should be held accountable are the consultant designers for some design flaws, the project management team who did not spot the design flaws and was also not able to monitor the construction well and then the contractor for not doing a quality construction job.

While the consultants are two private design companies the project management team is sent from the MoH consisting of a project manager Jambay, who is also an engineer, along with an electrical engineer. There is also support given by the ministry through its Health Infrastructure Development Division (HIDD) which is supposed to oversee these projects.

The Secretary said that as far as any construction issues are concerned like leaking ceilings and cracking tiles the contractor, Mindu Pvt Limited, is still within the liability period till October, 24 2019 and so he would have to fix all issues.

The false ceilings made of gypsum are impacted by the leaking from the AC systems above the false ceilings.

Here, HIDD Chief, Tandin, said that there was a design flaw as the leakage due to cooling was not expected. The design was done by Bhutanite Hosmac.

The Chief, however, admitted that there was also a lack of technical capacity within the HIDD itself to deal with and monitor such a technical HVAC system. He said there was a seepage in certain portions that affected the ceiling below it.

The Secretary said that the wrapping of the AC pipes had not been done well enough too.

The MoH was first alerted to the issue before 7th June when the Gelephu hospital brought up the various issues. On 7th June a team of HIDD led by the Director of Medical Supplies and Health Infrastructure inspected the leakage and other issues.

Tandin said that, through the contractor, the AC supplier was contacted and they came on 12th June and resolved certain issues and they are supposed to send a team by July 8th to resolve the other issues.

The other issue is that the tiles in several places in the hospital have been coming out and breaking.

Here, Tandin said that this was again a design flaw as the hospitals expansion joints which are gaps of four inches to allow for the contraction and expansion of the large structure were supposed to be enclosed between two walls but instead it ran right through the hospital rooms.

The designer here was Lama Consultancy.

“These expansion joints are ordinary supposed to be covered with aluminum sheeting but because they were running through rooms then tiles were put for aesthetic reasons and so as the structure moved the tiles broke and came out,” said Tandin.

Tandin said that one issue was leakage from the terrace and he said attempts had been made in the past to stop the seepage but it had not worked. He said that a new technology has come in the market and they are using it to try and stop the seepage.

About the cracks in the walls, Tandin said that his guess is that could just be cracks in the plasters but they would know once they leave for Gelephu with a team from the ministry on 6th July including the original project management.

He said the contractor would fix it if there are any issues.

Both the Health Secretary and the HIDD Chief denied that the issues had occurred due to a rushed construction.

The secretary said that in fact several time extensions were given running into months to finish the project.

Tandin said that the project got extended by several months several times with enough time to finish the project comfortably.

He said the contractor through the project management would approach the HIDD for extensions and the HIDD had a technical committee to see if extension was warranted and then give recommendations to the MoH who would take the final decision based on the HIDD’s findings.

On the issue of a non functional CT Scan Machine the Secretary said that initially some wires had been eaten by rats and though it was not the supplier’s fault the vendor still came and fixed it in June pointing out to the Hospital Management to take care of the rats’ infestation.

The Secretary said that the hospital failed to take care of the rats and this time the rats entered a more sensitive area and ate the wires and as a result that complete part of the CT Scan system would have to be replaced.

He said that the MoH would wait for the detailed report which would be given to Lyonpo and as per the issues accountability would be fixed.

Meanwhile, Tandin said that the problem is also technical since the engineers recruited by the MoH come with a plain civil engineer background with a plain building knowledge and so they would lack the knowledge and the training to know hospital engineering which is much more complex. He said the HIDD capacity is improving with the more projects it does.

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