Following community backlash over aspects of the proposed Canberra Hospital expansion, the government has started a more localised feedback forum for concerned Garran residents.
A Community Reference Group will be established to act as a go-between between the Health Minister and the local community as residents say they are concerned about child safety, traffic, parking and the new Emergency Department (ED) entrance which is set to be located across the road from the Garran Primary School.
Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith has tried to allay fears about how far construction of the Surgical Procedures, Interventional Radiology and Emergency (SPIRE) project has progressed and that the community’s concerns would not be heard.
“I think people thought that we were at a much more detailed level of design than we actually are at the moment, so people have expressed some quite significant concerns about traffic,” she says.
“We are taking that on board and we are also taking on board our own views about some of the pedestrian and traffic issues we need to manage in relation to the SPIRE project, and we are already working through some ideas to address those concerns.
“We’ve also had our own issues around the mix of pedestrians and vehicle traffic on Hospital Road so those are all things we’re taking into account as we work towards the detailed design process.”
Expression of interests are now open for the community to have their say on the project and put forward proposals for the SPIRE project, which will remain open until 12 October 2020.
“We’ve opened expressions of interests for the local Community Reference Group for the SPIRE project. What we’re encouraging people to do if they’re interested in being a part of this really important project, is to hop online on YourSay and put in an EOI,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.
Garran resident Jennifer Berget told Region Media last month that she’s baffled as to why the hospital would move the ED entrance away from a main arterial road and into a residential street.
“The corner of Palmer Street and Gilmore Crescent is bad enough as it is. We don’t want it to get any worse,” she said
“People were shocked that ambulances would be accessing the new ED opposite their driveway.”
Ms Stephen-Smith insisted that the new Community Reference Group wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction from the government following an influx of community backlash and that it’s actually standard for a project of this scale.
The SPIRE Project team from Major Projects Canberra met with the Garran Primary School deputy principal, the school board chair, Department of Education and ACT Health Directorate in August before holding an open community consultation at the school in November, Ms Stephen-Smith told Region Media.
“Certainly we have heard loud and clear that the Garran community, the Garran Primary School and local businesses want to be more involved in this process,” she said.
“We really want to make sure we get it right on a clinical level, get it right for consumers and carers, and we get it right in a way that’s going to work as part of the broader precinct of the Canberra Hospital campus and the wider community.”
The Minister says she wants the Community Reference Group to act as a conduit between the government and local businesses and residents throughout the process.
“We want people to join this reference group who have networks in the community, who can take the information that we give them and feed that back into the community in an informed way,” she said.
“People who live in this community, people whose kids go to school in this community, people who have businesses at the Garran shops, they’re the experts in how the traffic in this area really works day-to-day and we want to get their expert advice feeding into the detailed design work for the SPIRE project.”
The $500 million project, which is set to be completed in 2024, is starting to move forward with arrangements being made for hospital staff to relocate utilities and services as preparation and demolition begins.
“For the first time people can really see work getting underway on the Canberra Hospital campus as we start the development of the modular building where the administrative staff will move into as we decant from the buildings on the site where SPIRE will be built,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.
“Design of the SPIRE project is currently at the concept stage, providing an opportunity for community input throughout 2020 while the designs are finalised. By starting the enabling works onsite now, we will be ready for construction of the main facility to begin in 2021.”
Preliminary work will continue through 2020 to prepare the site while a modular building, which is being constructed offsite, will be ready to be installed in December to house staff during the process.