Behind the scenes team keep things running at the hospital

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Ashburton Hospital site maintenance manager Dan Wilson and Ashburton Health Services manager Bernice Marra take a walk along one of the maintenance tunnels, below right, the the smaller coal fired boiler at the hospital and, left, one of the seven plant rooms at the hospital.

By Mick Jensen

An in-house maintenance team monitors, repairs and maintains a hidden world of plant rooms, pipes and wiring to ensure things run smoothly behind the scenes at Ashburton Hospital.

Hidden tunnels, workshops and seven plant rooms are home to the small team that includes a fitter, electrician, carpenter and trade assistant.

The team, led by Methven-raised site maintenance manager Dan Wilson, also includes a gardener, administrator and others who are brought on board to work when needed.

Mr Wilson, who started at the hospital as an apprentice fitter 16 years ago, says a typical working week could feature anything between 50 and 100 jobs, both above and below ground.

“It’s our role to fix and maintain things, and we tackle the workload based on priorities and level of importance.

“There can be challenges, but at the end of the day, the hospital is reliant on systems and equipment being up and running, so that it can function.”

Mr Wilson said computer software helped schedule testing and checks, and also to monitor things.

Staff in Ashburton, and also in Christchurch, received automatic alerts for more serious plant and equipment failures, and staff here were on call 24/7.

Over the coming months the hospital maintenance team will be involved in a new project that will replace the current coal fired boiler with a new ground source heat pump.

The current big boiler was manufactured in 1960 and the smaller one in 1985.

Together they produce around 2400 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.

The heating upgrade will replace steam with a hot water system and will reduce the hospital’s energy costs by an estimated 30 %.

“The heating upgrade will take heat out of the ground water and use it to heat water circulating around the hospital heating system.

“It will work in a similar way to a domestic heat pump that transfers heat energy from the outside air to inside your house, whereas our new system will transfer heat energy from ground source water,” said Mr Wilson.

The new heat pump system would be located in a new building behind the current laboratories and it was hoped to have it up and running by the end of 2021.

recently ticked off and further testing would follow, said Mr Wilson.

Currently the hospital’s steel pipes carry steam at approximately 170 degrees around the hospital. The steam then heats the water to about 80 degrees for heating and domestic hot water for all buildings.

The new heat pumps will be able to produce water to 80 degrees and most of the existing steam pipes will be used to disperse it around the hospital.

The upgrade will be more efficient and less heat will be lost to the atmosphere.

As a by-product of heating, the heat pump can also produce chilled water and the Canterbury District Health Board is keen to tap into it for summer cooling.