Nineteen people including newborn babies in Lismore Base Hospital’s maternity wing were trapped for a short time on Sunday afternoon after a section of scaffolding collapsed in a storm, crashing onto the roof and trapping them inside.
NSW Police said a section of the maternity wing roof collapsed around 4.35pm.
Within an hour, police said all people had been released from the damaged wing.
This debris caused significant damage to the newly constructed maternity ward.
Richmond Clarence Health Service Group executive director Lynne Weir said the scaffolding collapsed onto the obstetric area of the hospital.
‘Nineteen people were inside at the time, five mothers and their babies, two staff and seven visitors,’ she said.
‘They were escorted by emergency services to another part of the hospital shortly after the incident.
‘One nurse was treated for a minor back injury.
Ms Weir said the hospital remains operational.
‘The emergency department was not affected and has continued to operate as normal.
‘An exclusion zone had been set up around the site to ensure there is no further risk to patients, staff or the public.
‘The construction site will remain closed until a full investigation has been undertaken and engineers have determined the site safe.
She said Workcover had been notified and was arriving this morning.
Firefighters from Goonellabah, Lismore, Coraki, Casino and Alstonville attended, as well as State Emergency Service members from Lismore and Ballina and NSW Police Rescue.
The Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter was also dispatched.
Meanwhile, the storm that lashed Lismore knocked down trees and caused flash-flooding in South Lismore and other parts of town.
Large hailstones accompanied the torrential downpour and heavy winds, prompted drivers to take shelter wherever they could.
Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell said this morning that 2,500 homes were without power as a result of powerlines being knocked down in the winds.
She said the damage primarily affected the power supply to customers in Lismore, Ewingsdale, Ballina, Suffolk Park, and surrounding areas, and as far south as Coffs Harbour.
At the height of the storm 9,800 customers were without power throughout the Northern Rivers area.
Crews restored power back to over 7,000 customers overnight and are working this morning to continue repairs.
Meanwhile, the northern rivers Greens are calling for an urgent investigation into the collapse of the scaffolding at Lismore Base Hospital.
Greens convenor Adam Guise said he was shocked to hear about the collapse.
‘I’ve heard harrowing stories of expectant mothers and midwives escaping from the modular maternity ward just minutes before the roof collapsed,’ Mr Guise said.
‘This is the second known serious incident during the hospital construction, with a concrete pumping truck overturning in December last year.
‘This latest incident warrants a thorough investigation of the worksite safety practices. With construction to continue at the hospital for years to come, the community needs to have confidence that the best safety standards are in place.
‘The Greens will follow up with the Minister for Health to ensure a thorough review is conducted.
“The well-being of hospital staff, patients and construction workers is paramount,” concluded Mr Guise.