Canberra Hospital’s SPIRE project big enough to do the job, Minister insists

Ian Bushnell 24 March 2020 20
Planned SPIRE development

An image of the planned SPIRE development from its latest project update. Image: Supplied.

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith has defended the ACT Government’s flagship hospital development in the face of ongoing criticism that it is underfunded and not big enough to meet the Territory’s growing needs, confirming that the project’s size and capacity will not change.

The $500 million SPIRE project that will provide a new emergency surgical and critical care facility at Canberra Hospital is touted as the ACT Government’s largest health infrastructure project.

But the project has been under fire, unsurprisingly, from the Opposition, but also community groups, as well as former Labor Chief Minister Jon Stanhope and his University of Canberra colleague Khalid Ahmed.

Mr Stanhope, in particular, through his regular column in City News, has drawn on Dr Ahmed’s research to accuse the Barr Government of ripping money out of the health budget and underestimating demand in the ACT as its population continues to grow.

He says that a ”watered down” SPIRE will include only 148 beds, about one-third of the number planned a decade ago when Katy Gallagher was health minister.

But Ms Stephen-Smith said the Government is taking a Territory-wide approach that includes other health facilities such as Calvary Public and the new University of Canberra Hospital, as well as considering a new hospital on the northside.

”We’ve got to really remember that Canberra Hospital, while it is the tertiary hospital for the region, the major trauma centre for the region, it is not our only hospital, we also have Calvary Public in Bruce, and we need to plan our services on a Territory-wide basis,” she said.

“We’re also scoping a potential new northside hospital either at Calvary or alongside that.”

She says planning for the SPIRE Project, which has had several iterations, has been based on detailed modelling of demand at other facilities, and that the number beds and facilities had been increased as a result.

Ms Stephen-Smith insists that the planning for SPIRE is taking into account the ACT’s demographic changes and that the new facility will be able to meet demand.

“We’re working constantly to ensure our planning is staying up to date with the projections of demand that were seeing into the future,” she said.

“We’re really confident that what we’re planning into SPIRE at this stage will meet that demand stage in line with what we’re seeing in terms of growing demand and an ageing population. The number of beds, number of ICU spaces, the number of Emergency Department spaces will not change.”

SPIRE will have 148 in-patient beds; 55-day surgery beds; 60 ICU spaces, including four paediatric beds; 39 extra ED spaces; 22 operating theatres; and radiology and medical imaging.

Rachel Stephen-Smith and Duncan Edghill

Rachel Stephen-Smith and Major Projects’ Duncan Edghill at Canberra Hospital for the SPIRE update announcement. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

The Woden Valley Community Council has also criticised the government for putting the cart before the horse by pressing on with SPIRE without completing the new Master Plan, and placing the new facility on the wrong site, arguing it should be centrally located on the hospital campus.

Ms Stephen-Smith says it would be inaccurate to present the Master Plan as the start of the planning process, calling it more a refresher of the hospital’s Capital Assets Development Plan.

”It is the continuation of an ongoing planning process, bringing all of that feedback together to put something out for the community of what we’re envisaging for the next 20 years,” she said. “It’s really part of an ongoing evolution of Canberra Hospital and the ongoing modernisation Canberra Hospital.”

The ACT Government has contracted architecture health care design practice Silver Thomas Hanley for $1.2 million to design the Canberra Hospital Master Plan, which is expected to be complete by July 2020.

Last week the Government updated its SPIRE precinct plans in response to concerns from the Garran community about the location of the new ED and increased traffic, including ambulances, past Garran Public School.

While ambulances will still travel past the school, the ED entrance for public presentations was moved to Hospital Road, which will now be split by an all-weather walkway between SPIRE and the rest of the hospital.

The Government says this will ease traffic in Gilmore Crescent by diverting public presentations to the other end of Hospital Road, but the Opposition says this will result in traffic chaos and is just another example of the Government’s poor planning.


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20 Responses to Canberra Hospital’s SPIRE project big enough to do the job, Minister insists
Ron Norton Ron Norton 11:32 am 20 Mar 20

Tuggeranong the forgotten area again!

    Kieran Angus Kieran Angus 2:08 pm 20 Mar 20

    Why on earth would they put a hospital in tuggers? Or Gungahlin for that matter? Hospital should be central.

    Ron Norton Ron Norton 2:56 pm 20 Mar 20

    I agree with you. But there have been several calls here for a hospital at Gungahlin. I was merely drawing a comparison between the merits of Gungahlin and Tuggeranong.

Stephen Burg Stephen Burg 9:09 pm 17 Mar 20

I'm in Canberra Hospital right now. It's my 5td day here, as my emergency surgery was cancelled for more important cases each of the 4 previous days. I've spent my time waiting with other people also on their 4th, 5th or even 6th day sitting in the quite uncomfortable waiting room. 2 nights ago they even had to cancel an 89 year lady who had been sitting there for 9 hours. But the Chief Minister will have his train. It's clearly far more important.

    Jodie McGuire Jodie McGuire 3:16 am 18 Mar 20

    Stephen Burg Sounds terrible....what the heck are they going to do when people begin getting really sick

    over the coming weeks and months??!! They’ll be building a new tent hospital across the road 😨😱

    Gonnie Kelly Gonnie Kelly 7:20 am 18 Mar 20

    Stop complaining ! I have been there with my husband 3 times this year . Waits were not that long . You all have to remember you are not the only one needing attention. The staff and equipment there ate first class .

    Stephen Burg Stephen Burg 8:59 am 18 Mar 20

    Gonnie Kelly ahh, Gungahlin speaks. Its great that your husband hasn't had to wait very long, but I and the other people here now have had to wait as I've said. But you keep voting for more trains as you're clearly fine with inadequate services.

    Gonnie Kelly Gonnie Kelly 9:38 am 18 Mar 20

    Stephen Burg we in Canberra don't have inadequate services . And we can and have multiple services. I don't live in Gungahlin . And yes I do vote for the trains as we are a growing city . And am very proud of it . As have lived here for a very long time . Can't wait for the light rail to come to Tuggeranong.

Evan Hawke Evan Hawke 8:49 pm 17 Mar 20

The government should extend the hospital onto the current Garran primary school site and move Garran primary school to the old Woden CIT site. Then they could move all the hospital parking to the hospital side of Yamba Drive :)

Ian K. Ward Ian K. Ward 6:31 pm 17 Mar 20

Yes we need a bigger hospital but it Should be built across the road on those playing fields .Not just adding on to a old over crowded hospital .

    Nicole McGuire Nicole McGuire 8:01 pm 17 Mar 20

    Gwg Heldon agree. Wasted opportunity on prime land.

Zakzook Chico Zakzook Chico 2:50 pm 17 Mar 20

Same as when the AMC was built...soon enough they learned more beds were needed...

Corey Karl Corey Karl 11:54 am 17 Mar 20

Why not build a new hospital in gungahlin ??

    Justin Watson Justin Watson 12:48 pm 17 Mar 20

    New hospitals cost more to run, due to duplication of admin. We've got 2 biggish hospitals for 400,000 people. There are larger populated areas in Sydney where the nearest hospital is 30 minutes drive still. Most of Canberra have two hospitals within 30 minutes.

    Zakzook Chico Zakzook Chico 2:49 pm 17 Mar 20

    Justin Watson yet waiting times are the worst in the country!

    Loris Manns Loris Manns 4:50 pm 17 Mar 20

    Corey Karl they are happy to sell available land to developers for more high rise. We don’t need more high rise in Gungahlin.

    Robyn Holder Robyn Holder 8:47 pm 17 Mar 20

    Corey Karl we do not need another hospital.

    Corey Karl Corey Karl 8:49 pm 17 Mar 20

    Robyn Holder have you been to woden lately ??? Not to mention the jobs created for the region, and it will take pressure off woden !! And who knows, maybe they can get waiting times down to the national average

    James Forge James Forge 9:53 am 18 Mar 20

    Corey Karl What about a new hospital in Tuggeranong first?

    But I agree Gungers probably could use one too

David Brown David Brown 11:41 am 17 Mar 20

She has to. No one else is silly enough to.

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