14 February 2023

Millions added to Canberra Hospital renovations to add 'pandemic overlay' for the future

| Claire Fenwicke
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Building work at the Canberra Hospital

Internal fit-outs are expected to begin ‘in earnest’ at Canberra Hospital in the next two months. Photo: ACT Government.

The lessons learned during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic have contributed to more money being invested in the Canberra Hospital expansion.

An extra $16.9 million will be invested into the facility’s Critical Services Building, which will contain a larger emergency department, more operating theatres and more beds.

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said most of this money would create a “pandemic overlay” for the building, which had been designed before COVID-19.

“[This investment] is about reflecting on the lessons that we’ve learned over the three years of COVID-19, but also some of the new opportunities we have and some of the changes in accreditation arrangements,” she said.

“We’ve continued to think about how we can ensure that this building is future-proofed, and the team has done a great job in thinking about what we would do in case of a future pandemic to ensure that we could maintain our health services and our major public hospital running at proper capacity while also keeping people safe.”

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Of this money, $8.1 million will go towards pandemic-safe measures in the fit-out and design, including enhanced air conditioning to better filter and isolate air circulation.

A further $4.9 will expand the scope of the building’s Central Sterilising Service Department, while the final $3.9 million will go towards more equipment, such as a new Angio-CT machine in the hybrid theatre to enable imaging of critically unwell patients in real-time while in the operating theatre.

This takes the overall investment into the Canberra Hospital expansion to more than $641 million, which includes all previous work to refurbish accommodation facilities and administration buildings.

Ms Stephen-Smith acknowledged the Territory has been dogged by bad hospital reports, and that conversations were underway to look into expanding the scope of vaccinations pharmacists could administer and other options to take the pressure off GPs.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said primary healthcare was a key focus of the ACT Government as a way to also improve wait times at our hospitals.

“We all acknowledge taking pressure off our hospital will require further investment in primary healthcare and collaboration across the nation, particularly with NSW as it relates to the healthcare it can provide to its own residents,” he said.

“Healthcare is the number one focus of National Cabinet this year.”

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The internal fit-out is expected to get underway “in earnest” in the next two months.

The project remained on track to complete construction by 2024.

“Once you’re this far advanced in construction, you’re less impacted by weather, things like that which can delay projects,” Mr Barr said.

“A number of risks have now passed but there are a number of things that can still happen in terms of building material supplies and other things.”

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Covid wasn’t our first pandemic.. Are we saying the hospital wasn’t designed to be a hospital?

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