29 March 2023

Canberra Hospital expansion reaches new heights to mark major milestone

| Claire Fenwicke
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Critical Services Building topping out ceremony

Major Projects Canberra deputy projects chief officer Martin Little, Multiplex construction manager Jane Curran, Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith and Canberra Health Services CEO Dave Peffer at the topping out ceremony for the Critical Services Building at Canberra Hospital. Photo: Claire Fenwicke.

A medieval tradition has been used to mark a major milestone in the construction of the Canberra Hospital’s Critical Services Building.

A native acacia melanoxylon (Australian blackwood) tree was craned more than 40 metres off the ground and onto the new building’s helipad as part of a topping out ceremony this week.

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said it felt like it was just yesterday she had been there for the sod turning ceremony.

“We have all watched this building rise at an incredible pace over the last 12 months and today’s topping out ceremony marks a significant milestone as we work to deliver a bigger and better hospital for Canberra,” she said.

“We’ve seen many tons of soil excavated to make way for the foundation of the new basement and ambulance bays, we’ve seen the structure rising rapidly from the ground despite the rain we had over the past year.”

Construction continues with waterproofing on the roof, the external façade, landscaping, art installations, internal fit-out, as well as widening Hospital Road later this year.

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Work also continues on finding the nurses, doctors and specialists to fill the new hospital building.

While some staff will come across from the old facility, Ms Stephen-Smith said work was underway to determine how many more jobs would need to be funded in the upcoming Budget to ensure healthcare professionals were ready to go when the building officially opened.

“The building’s new technology and modern facilities will help us attract a clinical workforce from not only Australia but around the world who will want to work in this new building and make Canberra their new home,” she said.

“Canberra Health Services has been working really hard on the commissioning process to understand exactly what we’re going to open when the building is completed in mid-2024, and what the recruitment for that looks like [some of which] is already underway.

“[As] we go through this year, more and more work will be done to finalise exactly what we’re going to open, when we’re going to open it and what the staffing requirements are going to look like, so we’ll have more to say in the Budget context.”

Critical Services Building topping out ceremony

A tree is craned on to the Critical Services Building’s helipad to mark the ‘topping out’ ceremony. Photo: Claire Fenwicke.

Members of construction partner Multiplex were also on hand to recognise the hard work up to this point.

Construction manager Jane Curran said it marked what the team had been able to achieve despite many challenges.

“It marks a significant achievement by the entire project team, who have collaborated over the past few years to consult, design and coordinate multiple work streams in a live hospital environment. Coupled with the impacts of COVID over the past few years which presented the team with some additional challenges,” she said.

“The Canberra hospital expansion is the largest healthcare infrastructure project ever undertaken by an ACT government and we are extremely privileged to bring it to life.”

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Extra work has also been incorporated, including an additional $16.9 million investment to future proof the building for pandemic situations, as well as adding more sterilisation services and enhanced imaging facilities.

Once complete, the building will provide more operating theatres, treatment spaces and intensive care beds, a new emergency department, acute cardiac operating theatres and inpatient facilities, and more ambulance spaces.

Construction is on track to be completed by mid-2024.

The tradition of placing a tree on top of a building started in Scandinavia and was adopted by infrastructure projects around the world to signify a building had reached its highest point of construction.

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