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Workers flag building flaws in Helsinki's brand-new kids' hospital

Workers told Yle that an operation to remove excess moisture was currently underway on the sixth floor of the new building.

Rakenteilla oleva uus ilastensairaala.
Image: Derrick Frilund / Yle

Last May, building contractors handed over the spanking new children's hospital two months ahead of schedule. After fittings and furnishings were installed during the summer, workers took up their duties in the new structure last autumn.

According to information relayed to Yle by hospital workers, there have been problems with the new building. They pointed out that an operation to remove excess moisture was currently underway on the sixth floor of the building. On top of that moisture damage had also been detected on the third and eighth floors. Yle was not granted permission to visit or film on the premises, so could not confirm the extent of the damage.

"I am aware that we have had some small instances of water damage. They have been dried up and in one location that is still ongoing. There have been some small construction errors which caused it," said operational planning head, paediatric diseases docent Pekka Lahdenne.

Lahdenne stressed that the scale of the damage has not prevented the hospital from operating as planned. "The building has been excellent. Families and staff enjoy the space," he added.

Building contractor SRV said that the sixth floor moisture problem caused only minor damage and was due to an isolated construction error by a sub-contractor.

"The reason for it was a leak in the building's heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system and the work in that area was done by another contractor. They were not part of our project," explained SRV's project manager for the children's hospital, Mirja Serenius.

Pages of requests

The workers Yle interviewed said however that in one month, staff have lodged hundreds of maintenance requests. Calls for repair, maintenance and installation work have included blinds that do not work when doors are closed, drain blockages and an inability to lock doors to rooms which store medication.

They told Yle they preferred not to disclose their names, but several staff representatives confirmed the reports. Hospital management stressed that the requested modifications, maintenance and repairs have been minor and that management has reacted immediately upon receiving them. The reports have in turn been quickly forwarded, so the list of required actions may seem long, they added.

Lahdenne said that overall, change requests were minor and included complaints about room temperature or air quality or a lack of power outlets but stressed that hospital management were quite satisfied with the quality of the construction.

Meanwhile Serenius noted that the project was completed on a tight schedule – construction and design were conducted in tandem, and this meant that there was little need for major changes post-completion. She added that the contractor did not stint on quality during construction.

"The overall duration of the project was short – design and construction took place in parallel, but [we] reserved sufficient time for construction. We tried to use the expertise of all the parties and specialists to ensure that there was enough time for the concrete structures to dry out," she concluded.

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