The ACT Government is seeking a non-government organisation or private sector partner to provide and operate a new public hydrotherapy pool on the southside to replace the ageing facility at Canberra Hospital which has been slated for closure.
The move follows a long campaign from users of the Canberra Hospital pool such as Arthritis ACT, supported by the Canberra Liberals, to keep that facility open, and the recommendations of the review of services that it prompted.
The expectation had been that people using the Canberra Hospital pool would travel to the new facility at the University of Canberra Hospital in Bruce, but this has proved a sticking point for many, especially those with mobility issues and specific conditions.
The Nous Group’s Access to Hydrotherapy in the ACT Report recommended that the ACT Health Directorate should conduct a study of the costs and benefits and different models for the longer-term establishment of a hydrotherapy facility in the south of Canberra.
Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith said the new southside service could be through the development and operation of a hydrotherapy pool at a new or existing facility, or the expansion of services at a facility with an existing hydrotherapy pool.
Any new facility must be available for use in a reasonable timeframe.
“This process will take account of the very clear finding from Nous’ work and the community feedback, that any new hydrotherapy pool should not be based at a hospital or acute health facility, but rather in a community setting,” she said.
“This recognises hydrotherapy as an ongoing therapeutic activity for many people with chronic illness or chronic pain to maintain their mobility, manage their pain and gain important mental health benefits.”
Ms Stephen-Smith said any new public hydrotherapy facility on the southside would complement the public facility operating at the University of Canberra Hospital, as well as other private facilities across the ACT.
“The closure of the hydrotherapy pool at Canberra Hospital is not a decision that has been taken lightly. ACT Health will continue to work with Arthritis ACT to ensure that alternative services are available in both the short and long term,” said Ms Stephen-Smith.
Canberra Health Services has extended the pool user agreement with Arthritis ACT until 31 December 2019 but the Government says it will not close until there is an appropriate replacement facility.
Expressions of Interest will close on 14 February 2020.