1 September 2023

Detailed design consultation begins for Canberra's promised new northside hospital

| Claire Fenwicke
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hospital artist's impression

A render of the proposed northside hospital. Image: ACT Government.

The next stage of design consultation for the new North Canberra Hospital has begun, but the Opposition is keeping a close eye on whether promised construction dates will be met.

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith gave the Legislative Assembly an update on what’s been happening at the hospital since it officially transferred into the government’s hands on 3 July.

She said more than 2000 staff, including visiting medical officers, had transitioned from Calvary Health Care to Canberra Health Services (CHS).

Now clinicians are being consulted on what they think the promised $1 billion acute public hospital should contain, with $64.2 million set aside in the 2023-24 Budget to progress to the detailed design phase.

“It is vital that the government hears from clinicians currently working in the northside acute hospital. Their voices will be crucial as we embark on the next steps to building an integrated public health system and investing in a new hospital,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.

“The ACT Government will also consult with the community and key stakeholders during the design process, which will keep the broader community informed with up-to-date, accessible information about the project through all stages of design and development.”

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The Opposition has voiced its scepticism that the promised new northside hospital will be built and opened on time.

Canberra Liberals health spokesperson Leanne Castley accused the government of trying to re-announce previously promised projects, branding them as “photo ops” and “puff pieces”.

She pointed to the new Critical Services Building as a case in point, calling it a “scaled-down proposal” from the $800 million expansion promised in 2012, and saying that it was a re-naming of the promised SPIRE centre from 2016.

“With this Barr-Rattenbury Government’s track record of over-promising and under-delivery, one has to be sceptical about whether it has any hope of building a new northside hospital, which it optimistically claims will commence construction in 2025-26 and be operational by 2030-31,” she said.

“It is certainly miles off being – in the words of [TV show] Utopia’s Jim Gibson – shovel ready.”

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Work is also progressing on the Critical Services Building at the Canberra Hospital.

Ms Stephen-Smith said as the opening date in 2024 approached, CHS was undertaking a recruitment campaign to further boost the number of staff in the building.

The pilot phase of the recruitment campaign started in July, with phase two to begin in early 2024.

“As part of the budget, the government is investing more than $122 million over four years to increase staffing and resources to operate the new building,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.

“This investment includes more frontline health professionals and more support staff for the new emergency department, operating theatres, intensive care and inpatient areas.”

An August project update stated scaffolding is being progressively removed, along with the two tower cranes which have been on site since March 2022.

In the coming months, power will be connected to the site and tested to ensure all systems and equipment are ready for use when the building opens.

New Canberra Hospital sky signage will also soon be installed on the new building.

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