29 May 2019

Canberra Hospital's SPIRE Centre to reach new heights

| Ian Bushnell
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An artist’s impression of the planned SPIRE Centre at Canberra Hospital. Image: Supplied.

Canberra Hospital’s new surgical and emergency centre will be bigger than originally planned after the ACT Government listened to the hospital’s clinical staff about the depth of the demand for services, and will be developed alongside a new ANU research and training centre.

Chief Minister and Treasurer Andrew Barr, who will deliver the 2019-20 Budget next week, said that the changes also reflected the greater-than-expected growth of the ACT, which is fuelling demand for services across all sectors.

He said the new Surgical Procedures, Interventional Radiology and Emergency (SPIRE) Centre, a 2016 election commitment, would be the largest ever investment in the ACT public health system and aimed to future-proof the health system.

The spend on the new centre would be in the ballpark of the $500 million committed but a final figure could not be provided until the procurement process was completed and a contractor named.

Mr Barr and Health Minister Meegan Fitzharris announced the changes and the soon-to-start procurement process for the development at the Canberra Hospital on Tuesday (28 May) as part of pre-Budget announcements.

Ms Fitzharris said the expanded SPIRE Centre would include more Emergency Department spaces, a dedicated mental health short-stay unit, double the number of intensive care beds, and additional operating theatres, as well as medical and diagnostic services.

On advice, the paediatric intensive care unit planned for the Centenary Women’s and Children’s Hospital will now be part of SPIRE, and will have four beds and a family zone to provide support services.

The SPIRE Centre will deliver 114 Emergency Department treatment spaces, 39 more than currently available, 64 ward beds and 60 ICU beds, double the number at present.

It will also include 22 new state-of-the-art operating theatres – nine more than are currently available and two more than planned, including hybrid theatres and interventional radiology theatres.

Ms Fitzharris said the number of staff required for SPIRE and across ACT health services, which would continue to expand to meet demand, would be in the hundreds.

A new ANU building, the site for which is still to be decided, will boost the teaching, training and research presence on the Canberra Hospital campus, and Ms Fitzharris believes it will attract the brightest and the best students and clinicians wanting to train and conduct research in a modern, state-of-the-art facility.

Andrew Barr and Meegan Fitzharris at Canberra Hospital. Photo: George Tsotsos.

Demolition of buildings on the SPIRE site, on the north-eastern side of the hospital campus between Hospital Road and Palmer Street, will begin later this year and work on relocating current services is under way. The project is expected to be completed in 2023-24.

On how long it had taken for the project to get off the ground, Ms Fitzharris said it had been important to get the design and planning right, including listening to clinical staff.

“We certainly knew that this would take a considerable amount of time to properly plan and design, and we’ve taken that time over the last two years to do that detailed work,” she said.

Ms Fitzharris said this meant looking at new hospitals and facilities across the nation and the big message was the need to engage with the clinical staff.

“When we looked around the country, clinical engagement was something that came through very clearly, it obviously came through in the culture review we undertook, that’s why from my point of view it was very important to do that over the past six months. It’s very important to continue to do that over coming months as we get on to that detailed design,” she said.

Ms Fitzharris said she was also keen to make the case to the new Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt about the Commonwealth making a contribution to what will be an integrated health and research centre, as well as ensuring pre-election commitments to the hospital were received.

Dean of the ANU College of Health and Medicine, Professor Russell Gruen said the best health systems and patient outcomes only occur when universities and health services worked closely together.

“These new facilities will help develop and attract the best clinicians, promote quality, safety and value in the health system, and make available the latest cutting-edge research and technology,” he said.

“They will also ensure ANU serves the nation by preparing health professionals for the future of healthcare. It will ensure Canberra is a hub for contemporary medical education that harnesses advanced approaches to simulation and technology-enhanced learning.

“By bringing our high-quality science and research-led education, ANU looks forward to the development of SPIRE, and to supporting ACT Health and Canberra Health Services in improving health and wellbeing and preparing for the challenges of the future.”

The cost of the new ANU building is also subject to a procurement process.

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HiddenDragon6:15 pm 30 May 19

“Chief Minister and Treasurer Andrew Barr, who will deliver the 2019-20 Budget next week, said that the changes also reflected the greater-than-expected growth of the ACT, which is fuelling demand for services across all sectors.”

There’s also quite a bit of population growth just across the border, so the long-suffering taxpayers of the ACT will be hoping that this shiny new facility is supported by a full and fair contribution from the bountiful coffers of the NSW Government.

As to the name – why do we always have these weird acronyms in Canberra, is it, like our mysterious road layouts, a plot to baffle interlopers…..?

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