The $500 million Canberra Hospital expansion project that will deliver the new eight-storey emergency, surgical and critical healthcare building is on track for a 2021 start after the ACT Government announced that global construction company Multiplex had been selected to design and build the facility.
Commercial negotiations are continuing but the price tag will be between $490 million and $540 million.
A development application is expected early next year and the main works should commence by the middle of 2021, and be complete by 2024.
Multiplex also built the University of Canberra Hospital and has a strong track record of delivering hospital projects, including Westmead in Sydney this year.
The project will increase capacity across adult intensive care, paediatric intensive care, surgical, coronary care and the new emergency department.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said Multiplex would be working closely with the ACT Government and established clinician, consumer and community reference groups to design a state-of-the-art facility that features technologically advanced equipment, modern operating theatres and the latest in imaging technology.
Earlier this year, the ACT Government updated the new building’s design to include an enclosed walkway between the new acute facility and the current Building 2 after feedback from stakeholders.
“The plan Multiplex has put forward for this connection has taken it a step further, delivering a truly integrated solution and an even better outcome for consumers, carers and staff,” Mr Barr said.
However, Mr Barr rejected assertions that voters should be upset that the project, long planned for and promised at the 2016 election for a 2022 finish, was now not going to start until 2021.
”It involved very detailed design and community engagement. This is one of those exercises where we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t,” he said.
“If we hadn’t engaged with the community, hadn’t sought to alter designs to reflect issues that were raised with us, then we would be accused of ramming something through and be accused of not listening.”
Mr Barr said the government’s willingness to invest in the public hospital system had never been in doubt.
He also dismissed ongoing claims from former Labor chief minister Jon Stanhope that his government had underspent on health and that this smaller version of the hospital expansion would not be able to cater for a growing Canberra.
Referring to Mr Stanhope as a hero of the past, Mr Barr said his assumptions were out of date and did not reflect current circumstances but a world view from 2000.
”In the development of this project we’ve been very cognisant of our city’s health needs but also our future population growth,” he said.
”I would note that at this point in time, our rate of population growth is going to be but a fraction of what it was for obvious reasons of the shutdown of international migration and severe limitation to internal movement in this country.”
Mr Barr said the impact of the pandemic would be factored into the project’s risk management but he did not have a crystal ball when it came to COVID-19’s potential effect on the timeframe and budget.
On a positive note, construction had continued during the year on a range of major sites in Canberra, he said.
Mr Barr said the government would keep talking to the community, clinicians and consumers about the design but an infrastructure project of this size would inevitably involve compromise.
”What we need to ensure is that the health outcomes we desire from this investment are achieved,” he said.
The project will generate about 500 local jobs and will come as other big developments in Canberra come to an end. It will also mean opportunities for about 150 local trainees and apprentices.
In a first for the ACT, the new facility will be an all-electric building, helping to minimise the carbon footprint of the hospital, improving the hospital’s green star rating and supporting the ACT’s target of net-zero emissions.
Hospital staff and service will begin relocating from next year and other works in train will be the demolition of Buildings 8, 5, and 24, and the construction of a new Building 8 which will house the Canberra Sexual Health Centre, Staff Development Unit, Surgical Training Centre and university teaching spaces.
An 1100 space temporary car park on the old Woden CIT site will cater for hospital staff affected by the campus disruption. A tender is out and construction is due to start in October. The facility is due to open in early 2021.