COVID-19 Surge Centre set for the winter rush no one wants to see

Ian Bushnell 25 May 2020 49
Canberra Health Services Deputy Chief Executive Dave Peffer

Canberra Health Services Deputy Chief Executive Dave Peffer outside the new Surge Centre on Garran Oval. Photos: Michelle Kroll.

The ACT’s $23 million COVID-19 insurance policy is ready for the ‘go’ button to be pushed after a fast-tracked build and fit-out.

The temporary 50-bed COVID-19 Surge Centre sprang up on Garran Oval in just 37 days and is poised to be activated if the Canberra Hospital is overwhelmed by an outbreak during the winter when the flu season is usually in full swing.

It’s the bespoke medical facility that the government doesn’t want to have to use.

The resuscitation area

The resuscitation area.

”No one buys insurance hoping they’ll crash their car, they have it in case and this is part of our in case plan for the Territory,” said Deputy Chief Executive of Canberra Health Services Dave Peffer yesterday (21 May) at a walk-through of the new facility.

The government allocated $23 million to contract local health services outfit Aspen Medical to deliver and run the facility, which was designed in partnership with the World Health Organisation.

One of the pods

One of the pods.

But that breaks down into $10.5 million for the build, $3.5 million for equipment and supplies, and $9 million for staffing which may not be spent if the ACT continues to not have any cases, as was the situation yesterday.

It is now a piece of mobile medical infrastructure owned by the Territory.

”The facility has been designed and built in such a way that it can be demobilised at the appropriate time and stored in 20-foot shipping containers,” Mr Peffer said. “It has a bar code system so it can be rapidly redeployed to a location.”

It could also be sold if the government wanted to.

Divided into two sections for suspect-COVID and COVID-positive patients and separated by a ”green zone” corridor, the secured centre is designed to scale up as required to meet demand as and if it arises.

That will occur if Canberra’s hospitals cannot cope with the number of COVID-19 cases, but the surge centre will still take three weeks to come online.

It uses a multiple pods system that can be activated one after the other or all at the same time.

Within each side of the surge centre are triage areas, PPE donning and doffing areas, resuscitation beds, general beds, safe medicine dispensing units and toilets.

Refrigeration panelling has been used to divide spaces because it withstands constant abrasive chemical cleaning, critical when dealing with a disease such as COVID-19. The air is also filtered and expelled.

Some of the fixtures such as the medicine dispensing units were manufactured locally.

A security room with surveillance screens will monitor the facility.

Outside is an ambulance reception area, while those who may self-present will be screened at a nearby carpark.

While having a 50-bed unit sited so near the main campus might be tempting, it remains a dedicated facility that will only be used for treating COVID-19 patients.

Mr Peffer said there were no plans to use it for pandemic training exercises but a range of teams across CHS were looking at opportunities for the facility and where it could be deployed in future use.

The government chose the Garran site due to its proximity to the Canberra Hospital campus facilities, including the Intensive Care Unit, Emergency Department and Pathology.

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49 Responses to COVID-19 Surge Centre set for the winter rush no one wants to see
gazmos gazmos 9:42 am 22 May 20

Shame on the ACT Govt for not investing enough in Canberra Hospital. Now we have a $23m white elephant that will have to be removed when the emergency orders are lifted in June. Aspen promised it would take 72 hours to set up (Rioact 2 April). Now 6 weeks later we have no COVID-19 cases and no need for the hospital. The ACT Govt should be ashamed that Barr and the Greens wasted $1.5b on the tram, when a small portion of that would have made a significant difference to the health system.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 10:07 am 22 May 20

“It’s the bespoke medical facility that the government doesn’t want to have to use.”

What was the name of that “drink you have when your not having a drink”?

Tina Newsome Tina Newsome 12:41 pm 22 May 20

If we don't get to use then that is the best possible outcome! Doesn't mean it can't be utilised for other things though.

Elizabeth Rocholl Elizabeth Rocholl 12:50 pm 22 May 20

Thanks for take care of us..

Sarah Isabella Sarah Isabella 12:59 pm 22 May 20

Yeah, like my seatbelt, I've like, never used that thing, why do I even have it?

Acton Acton 1:14 pm 22 May 20

Virtually nothing remains of Garran oval and the sports fields used by Garran Primary School after construction of this $23 million “insurance policy”.
The needs of these kids for exercise, fun, fitness and play have been sacrificed to pander to the selfishness and paranoia of the few.

Fiona Hall Fiona Hall 1:27 pm 22 May 20

It should be put to use, even after the whole covid thing is over. It could be used as the emergency department

    Ian K. Ward Ian K. Ward 2:26 pm 22 May 20

    Fiona Hall No it shouldn’t it’s just temporary on the oval , The plan is to build a new Ed within the hospital.

    Neenie Baines Neenie Baines 4:43 pm 22 May 20

    Fiona Hall they are on selling it after the covid danger is over I think.

Emmac Ph Emmac Ph 1:36 pm 22 May 20

It’s presence makes me feel so much more confident- this is probably the best thing the government has done for the citizens of the ACT.

Steve Wood Steve Wood 1:36 pm 22 May 20

Looking at Italy.. smart response.. Looking at New York potential impact of Covid-19 justified response... Not spending enough on health standard for all political parties.. until we have a vaccine prevension and readiness is key in case we end up with wave 2.. Q. Is the virus dormant in those who have had it or gone for good. If dormant what implications if it resurfaces.. could get much worse??.to many what ifs for this articale to be relevant at this time.. Just my opinion.

rsm1105 rsm1105 2:03 pm 22 May 20

Most of the US is not like New York, including cities like LA.

It would be interesting to see the modeling at time decision was made to build it v. now.

Sean Lawson Sean Lawson 2:09 pm 22 May 20

It's bizarre this needs to be repeatedly explained to some of the denizens of Canberra's online comment community

Shane Jasprizza Shane Jasprizza 2:58 pm 22 May 20

Is it better to have and not need than to need and not have?

    Michelle Eggleton Michelle Eggleton 3:52 pm 22 May 20

    Shane Jasprizza definitely!

    Shane Jasprizza Shane Jasprizza 10:28 pm 22 May 20

    could homeless people sleep there until it’s needed for sick people?

Helena Reeves Helena Reeves 3:59 pm 22 May 20

Well done ACT Government, better safe than sorry,

Timmy Holness Timmy Holness 4:29 pm 22 May 20

When all is said and done it’s extra emergency beds for a growing city. In the meantime, it’s fantastic to see our wonderful government ready willing and able to combat this pandemic head-on and who knows, we may be able to assist other states in their fight because that is what we do.

rsm1105 rsm1105 5:10 pm 22 May 20

Is it better to have something that will actually be used?

The temporary facilities in US have all been disbanded.


stevew77 stevew77 5:11 pm 22 May 20

Its a $23 million white elephant. I wont get used. Nice little earner though…
Covid19 is more about re-engineering society and control by fear.
Lets be honest – it looks like a bioweapon, acts like a bioweapon…hmm….
If youre over 70, yep not good, but the rest of us shoudl be let to just get on with things.
And hey, if you trust someone with a rushed vaccine to jab it into your rear end…well….stay the hell away from me. Chnaces are you will be a bigger problem than the viurus.
And its an RNA vaccine, youve just had your DNA changed..congrats. Your great grandkids will not thank you for it…as thier DNA will also be tainted.

    JC JC 11:10 pm 22 May 20

    Wow if it is doing that then this is the worlds biggest scam ever. It has AlamosT every country and every political party all playing from the same song book.

Robert Mair Robert Mair 5:29 pm 22 May 20

It was built as a safeguard! It’s there!! Let’s now put it to good use and get some value for money! 👴🏻

    Imants Ezergailis Imants Ezergailis 8:04 pm 22 May 20

    Robert Mair : Do you really believe this will happen??

    ACT cannot afford to pay our medical staff a realistic salary but can find $23M by just snapping their fingers!!

    Robert Mair Robert Mair 10:34 pm 22 May 20

    Imants Ezergailis - Well then, as they said, it will be a while elephant!

Jorge Gatica Jorge Gatica 5:34 pm 22 May 20

Waste of rate payers money

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 7:51 pm 22 May 20

    Yes, it's like house insurance; you don't need it until you need it. Do you insure your house? Waste of money too.

    Imants Ezergailis Imants Ezergailis 8:08 pm 22 May 20

    Julie Macklin : So why were so many houses in bushfire affected areas NOT insured?? They know the government (aka taxpayers) will always bail them out! The insurance analogy doesn’t apply!

    Darren Bryant Darren Bryant 10:34 pm 22 May 20

    Imants no, because people are often less well off and less educated about the need for insurance. How have they bailed them out exactly?

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 11:58 pm 22 May 20

    Imants Ezergailis wrote, "They know the government (aka taxpayers) will always bail them out!" Can you please supply examples of where the government supplied enough money for them to rebuild their houses to back up this claim you made?

    Imants Ezergailis Imants Ezergailis 12:15 pm 23 May 20

    Darren Bryant : With money!🤷‍♂️

    Imants Ezergailis Imants Ezergailis 12:17 pm 23 May 20

    Julie Macklin : Just count up for yourself the number of uninsured properties that have been rebuilt!

    They cannot afford insurance premiums but can afford to build a new house?? Really?

    Darren Bryant Darren Bryant 12:23 pm 23 May 20

    You’re not seriously suggesting the government has given them money to rebuild, are you?

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 12:35 pm 23 May 20

    Imants Ezergailis Oh come on, you can't really be serious and believe that the government paid to rebuild their houses, can you? My guess, really big mortgages. Starting again. Fortunately they wouldn't need to buy land for this; already owning it, so that's one expense avoided.

    Imants Ezergailis Imants Ezergailis 1:19 pm 23 May 20

    Julie Macklin : You have your views, I have mine.

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 3:48 pm 23 May 20

    Imants Ezergailis Shame you couldn't supply proof for your laughable claims.

    Imants Ezergailis Imants Ezergailis 3:50 pm 23 May 20

    Julie Macklin : With your mindset, you would simply reject anything that I offered.

    In any case, it would be a gross invasion of privacy to identify people or properties.

Roy Ward Roy Ward 8:29 pm 22 May 20

It should stay until winter is over

Peter Mackay Peter Mackay 9:04 pm 22 May 20

Very glad that we *didn't* need it. If we had been getting full use out of it, yes, our rate dollars would have been well spent, but we'd all be feeling sorry. Those of us who survived, that is. Canberra's a small enough place that any sort of solid viral hit would take someone we knew.

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