Home-grown health services outfit Aspen Medical will build the ACT Government’s temporary COVID-19, Emergency Department (ED) on Garran Oval, adjacent to the Canberra Hospital.
The ED will have 50 beds including six resuscitation beds, and about 200 staff.
Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said the site had been selected because of its proximity to the Canberra Hospital, with which it will be fully integrated, and the minimal disruption it will cause to hospital activity.
She said the site was big enough to cater for logistics and essential equipment servicing the facility, which will have its own public and staff car parking and amenities.
The government and Aspen Medical will investigate the oval in the coming days to inform the final design and site layout. Construction will begin soon after.
The temporary ED is expected to be up and running by next month, and Aspen Medical will build, equip and staff the facility.
Aspen Medical executive chairman Glenn Keys said the steel, rectangular structure would be manufactured off-site while site works were undertaken, and then installed and fitted out quickly.
He said the facility would be connected to the hospital via covered walkways.
Mr Keys said the ED would surge or contract as demand needs, saying the government had decided to get out ahead of the situation.
“The government has realised that when you need beds it’s too late to get them,” he said.
Ms Stephen-Smith said modelling showed the need to plan so that the health system can double and triple capacity in ventilators and intensive care.
“If we do see the kind of numbers in the modelling, by the time we get there it’s too late,” she said.
Ms Stephen-Smith said the government had been working closely with experts across both the health and construction sectors to ensure the facility could be constructed quickly and would meet the anticipated demand for healthcare in the months to come.
“We have been consulting with representatives from the World Health Organisation, as well as local and other international clinical experts as we work through the early designs,” she said.
“Though the designs aren’t yet finalised, we are moving as quickly as possible to plan, design and deliver this new facility, and ensure we are well-equipped to cope with the anticipated increased demand on our healthcare system.”
Canberra Health Services CEO Bernadette McDonald said it was still uncertain whether the temporary ED would be the primary facility for treating COVID-19 patients as the model of care and patient flow were still being worked out.
Ms Stephen-Smith said the government was planning for the worst scenario while hoping for the best outcome for the community.
“We will continue to take decisive action during these uncertain times to make sure we’re as ahead of the game as we can be,” she said.
“As further detail is finalised, we will keep the community informed about the model of care and the operation of the facility, including who should use it and when.”
Mr Keys praised the public-private collaboration and the speed at which the project had progressed.
”To go from the initial announcement to standing here while people are starting to lay footings and support structures is fantastic,” he said.
The ACT Government has funded the $23 million project to the end of July, but the Minister says it will keep operating after that if required.