Construction of the Canberra Hospital’s new surgical and emergency centre has been delayed until 2021 but the ACT Government is adamant the $500 million project remains on track to be completed by 2024.
The construction of the hospital’s new Surgical Procedures, Interventional Radiology and Emergency (SPIRE) Centre, which is the largest ever investment in the ACT public health system, was expected to start next year but now has been pushed back to 2021.
The ACT Government tender said due to the complexity of the project and desire to ensure that construction works can commence early in 2021, it has decided that an early contractor involvement procurement will be adopted.
The Government will also engage a law firm with specialist construction experience to provide legal advice and assist in the formulation of the contractual framework to inform the approach to the market and subsequent engagement of a construction contractor for SPIRE.
The contract for the legal firm to assist in the procurement will be awarded next month.
The procurement and delivery of SPIRE is being managed by the newly created Major Projects Canberra Agency on behalf of Canberra Health Services and ACT Health.
The tender revealed that expressions of interest to build SPIRE will be released in September-October 2019, with the construction company not appointed until June/July 2020 and the legal firm to be involved in the selection and negotiation process in time for construction to begin in the first quarter of 2021.
SPIRE received funding in the 2019-20 Budget and despite the construction setback, Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith still believes the centre will be completed in 2023-24.
“The project remains on track to be delivered in 2023-24,” the minister’s spokesperson said. Nothing has changed since previous guidance by the ACT Government.
“There is no delay in the final delivery of the SPIRE project. Early works commence this year and continue into 2020, which includes demolition, site preparation, and construction activities.”
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.
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 underway.
Liberal MLA Vicki Dunne said the fact that the ACT Government’s key health 2016 election promise won’t begin until after the 2020 Election follows a series of project failures including blown out completion dates and logistical and budgetary bungles.
“Successive Labor Health Ministers have broken commitments to renew the hospital. We now have a new Health Minister and already it’s business as usual for Labor,” Ms Dunne said.
“Our hospitals are under maximum pressure due to 18 years of neglect under Labor governments.
“Canberrans are paying for a world-class health system but it’s quite obvious that health is a low priority for Labor.”