The ACT Government has made a pre-Budget commitment of over $90 million to increase the capacity of the Canberra Hospital intensive care unit, emergency department and boost emergency surgery capacity.
The $28.4 million funding over three years will add four beds to the ICU and allow for additional surge capacity should it be required.
The new beds form part of the government’s plans to transition to the new Critical Services Building at the hospital. It is forecast to be completed in 2023-24.
It’s expected physical works on the current ICU will be finished later this year, meaning additional surge capacity and beds could be made available, if necessary, to meet what Chief Minister Andrew Barr has described as the “ongoing challenges” of COVID-19.
In a statement, Mr Barr said the investment “will meet future demand in our growing region and support the response to the COVID-19 pandemic”.
A total of $22.9 million over four years will also be directed to initiatives within the emergency department, such as additional staffing, increased treatment spaces, and a new Acute Medical Unit.
The government has said this acute unit will allow patients with multiple medical issues to be admitted more quickly to the hospital.
Another position – a medical navigator – will be created within the emergency department.
The medical navigator is described as a highly skilled nurse who works with the senior medical team to ensure patients are cared for in the right ED location and to support the admission process and facilitate transfer to the appropriate inpatient ward.
In a statement, Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith said the additional funding in the Territory budget will mean the emergency department can meet the growing demand for emergency surgery.
“The initiatives funded through the Budget will drive improved performance, ensuring Canberrans continue to get access to the right care at the right time,” her statement read.
A further commitment of $39 million will also allow for an additional 1,920 emergency surgery theatre hours per year and another eight surgical beds.
Last month, Minister for Planning and Land Management Mick Gentleman used his call-in powers for the $600 million Canberra Hospital Expansion project – ostensibly to keep the project on track – although he could not say how much time his intervention could save.
At the time he said that it was “important for the Canberra community that this project goes ahead in a timely manner”.
In September 2020, the Federal Government committed $13.5 million in Commonwealth funding to increase the Hospital’s ICU capacity.