Pop-up ED will continue as planned despite ACT’s flattened COVID curve

Dominic Giannini 21 April 2020 59
Rachel Stephen-Smith, Bernadette McDonald and Glenn Keys

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith (left), CEO of Canberra Health Services Bernadette McDonald (middle) and Executive Chairman of Aspen Medical Glenn Keys (right) announcing Garran Oval as the site for the temporary Emergency Department on 9 April. Photo: Region Media.

The temporary emergency department set to be erected at Garran Oval will go ahead as planned despite an improving COVID-19 situation, the Chief Minister confirmed yesterday (20 April).

The $23 million, 50-bed pop-up facility will help the ACT expand the capacity of its emergency health response as Canberra prepares for a possible uptick in COVID-19 cases, coupled with winter influenza presentations.

Health Minister Rachel Stephen Smith has previously said that the facility had been chosen to mitigate any interruptions to Canberra Hospital’s operations and is intended to be fully self-sufficient.

The structure is intended to be temporary and represents an important part of the plan to boost the ACT’s hospital capacity, tripling the number of intensive care beds from 50 to more than 170 in case the pandemic returns.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said he understands the frustration of residents who want lockdown restrictions eased, especially after almost 90 per cent of COVID-19 cases have recovered; however, he said those calling for slackened measures are misunderstanding the cyclical nature of a pandemic.

That possibility is what drives the decision to continue with the new emergency facility plans.

“I am worried about public frustration at the lockdowns but I did say this from the start, that decisions we took now were going to have long-term implications that were going to be beyond just a period of weeks – they were going to be months and potentially years,” Mr Barr said.

“The history of the Spanish Flu a century ago was that the second wave was significantly larger than the first and far more deadly. This virus will continue to circulate around Australia even if it stops in the ACT and all it takes is one person to begin another chain of infection.

“While it is possible for an island nation to pursue an elimination path, it is a short-term elimination path because this virus will continue to circulate around the world for many years – any early move out of restrictions runs the risk of a second or third or fourth or fifth wave.”

The Territory’s Chief Health Officer (CHO), Dr Kerryn Coleman, says she is hoping we can achieve complete eradication of COVID-19 in the ACT as less than a dozen people are active with the virus, but that the main aim of ACT Health is confidently identifying any transmission sources rapidly.

“When we start relaxing some of our social distancing measures and start to see movement further around the country is when our risk will re-raise because we are at a much lower risk than other jurisdictions,” she said.

“That will be a really important time to be monitoring our testing more closely.”

However, Mr Barr reminded Canberrans that even if the virus is eradicated in the territory or in Australia, there would be no immunity in the community until a vaccine is created.

At the very least, Australia would have to remain closed to overseas travellers and ban citizens from leaving the country as one person could potentially start another outbreak upon entry, Mr Barr says.

“There is a lot of work going into looking at how we can shape a series of measures that are less restrictive than where we are at now but that still provides some level of protection,” he said.

“We cannot completely eliminate the risk but you can make some sensible risk reduction and risk minimisation decisions and measures, and some are as straight forward as closing Australia’s borders and others go to limiting the size of public gatherings.”

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59 Responses to Pop-up ED will continue as planned despite ACT’s flattened COVID curve
rsm1105 rsm1105 10:03 am 22 Apr 20

Presumably people realise that unless your entire household stays inside and the borders are sealed shut at least for next 2 years, there is a good chance that you will get this … ?

Wendy Apostoloff Wendy Apostoloff 8:58 pm 21 Apr 20

I for one would prefer that we are over prepared rather than under prepared😀

Nardia Kerin Nardia Kerin 7:49 pm 21 Apr 20

Let's hope all you knockers can say "see I was right" in 6 months time and that we didn't need it...although wonder if you would be saying that if you or your loved one was the 21st case that required care and there was only 20 beds....oops, bad luck!

    Matt Fallon Matt Fallon 1:12 pm 22 Apr 20

    we are saying it now. Elective surgeries are back and we are still going through with this!?!?

    Nardia Kerin Nardia Kerin 3:11 pm 22 Apr 20

    Matt Fallon glad you were right! Elective surgeries were stopped due to shortage of PPE 👍

    Matt Fallon Matt Fallon 3:25 pm 22 Apr 20

    Nardia Kerin No it wasnt

Craig Elliott Craig Elliott 5:07 pm 21 Apr 20

I still think it is a good idea but a better outcome would have been to have a flexible agile procurement strategy that could be scaled up and down as this rapidly changing crisis changes. In my experience government doesn’t have the knowledge to implement these kinds of flexible procurement strategies... ideally you would build it now at 50% of size...25 beds.

Raffy Sgroi Raffy Sgroi 4:25 pm 21 Apr 20

It’s fantastic and an awesome work but personally I would’ve invested this money in a permanent much needed hospital

Tara Davison Tara Davison 4:20 pm 21 Apr 20

Awesome investment, thank you ACT Gov ❤

Jude Beck Jude Beck 3:10 pm 21 Apr 20

Why not use the new hospital in Bruce it’s practically empty!

    Jennifer Gee Jennifer Gee 8:01 pm 21 Apr 20

    Jude Beck I think because it is a rehab hospital and most people staying or coming in there daily/weekly would be considered your ‘at risk’ people. So they wouldn’t be able to do that.

    Jude Beck Jude Beck 8:02 pm 21 Apr 20

    Jennifer Gee ok cheers, thanks for that, just a thought 😃

Michael McDonald Michael McDonald 1:26 pm 21 Apr 20

Just because its flattened now, doesn't mean there isnt a pandemic out there.

John Canevski John Canevski 1:12 pm 21 Apr 20

What a waste of money

rsm1105 rsm1105 1:03 pm 21 Apr 20

Seems to makes sense as part of a strategy to ease restrictions.

David Brown David Brown 12:44 pm 21 Apr 20

I don’t understand why we don’t use the new, under utilised UC Hospital in Bruce?

    Angie Fearon Angie Fearon 8:10 am 22 Apr 20

    UCH doesn't have ICU /ED capacity

    Also, I believe they shifted pt there to make space at TCH.

    David Brown David Brown 9:24 am 22 Apr 20

    Angie Fearon I think that completely misses the point. If we can build a whole new temporary hospital in a park, surely we can temporarily add some emergency capacity to an existing hospital?

    Fenji Stradwick Fenji Stradwick 11:08 pm 22 Apr 20

    David Brown it may also be staff and specially related. TCH is the regional trauma and referral hospital. So it may be that it's easier and quicker to transfer them to a speciality ward into TCH and also have a specialist doctor go from the main block ED to the pop up.

    Fenji Stradwick Fenji Stradwick 11:10 pm 22 Apr 20

    Angie Fearon hi Angie, long time no see, hope you're going OK. Mums up for joint 5 now! 2 x THR, 1 TKR, needs the second and had a reverse TSR. 👋

Corey Karl Corey Karl 12:37 pm 21 Apr 20

Haha ACT loves a pop up

Cary Elliot Johnson Cary Elliot Johnson 12:32 pm 21 Apr 20

I’m putting money on “them “ using it as another ward after winter and Covid are done due to the pre Covid bed capacity issues. Bets on that it’s actually a Hospital “covid operation “

Vanessa Essam Vanessa Essam 12:22 pm 21 Apr 20

It’s called planning for the worse while hoping for the best - there are no guarantees & I’d rather us be prepared just in case then things go the way of Europe or the US cause we’re underprepared!

Matt Fallon Matt Fallon 12:04 pm 21 Apr 20

It wont be used.

    Jackie White Jackie White 12:22 pm 21 Apr 20

    You can see the future, can you?

    Jackie White Jackie White 1:15 pm 21 Apr 20

    The date is NOW. Not a month or two down the track.

    Matt Fallon Matt Fallon 1:17 pm 21 Apr 20

    Jackie White data flows predict what it is likely to be down the track. The same data flows that were used to create quarantine

Ricky Toms Ricky Toms 11:47 am 21 Apr 20


Daniel Howell Daniel Howell 11:45 am 21 Apr 20

Question is this temporary hospital staying there after everything calms down

    Peter Bojkowski Peter Bojkowski 11:50 am 21 Apr 20

    Daniel Howell Lol, do you know what a field hospital is? It's temporary. Didn't you just say that yourself.

    Li Sa Li Sa 1:44 pm 21 Apr 20

    Daniel Howell I’m presuming it will but may be used for something else.

    Daniel Howell Daniel Howell 3:31 pm 21 Apr 20

    Li Sa yeah true

    Li Sa Li Sa 3:48 pm 21 Apr 20

    Daniel Howell I think the use for the building will be temporary but the building will remain 😊

    Kate Field Kate Field 5:17 pm 21 Apr 20

    No doubt the ACT Government won't restore the oval and return the site to public use. They'll either put a monstrous apartment building on the grounds or will use for the continued expansion of the hospital precinct. True to form, there'll be no consultation or a 'fake' consultation period. Either way, the residents of Garran are the losers. I can't wait for the election to roll around.

Ed N Joanne Towner Ed N Joanne Towner 11:29 am 21 Apr 20

To any knockers that think this is a bad idea just remember we are in this good position because the Govt has taken the measures needed. Additionally they are also concerned about a second wave not overwhelming the existing health system. If they didn't prepare and the hospital was overwhelmed are you going to say why did they not prepare for this?.

    Peter Bojkowski Peter Bojkowski 11:55 am 21 Apr 20

    Ed N Joanne Towner You've nailed it.

    Jim Jim Jim Jim 12:00 pm 21 Apr 20

    Ed N Joanne Towner let’s not mistake federal government for local government...

    Matt Fallon Matt Fallon 12:03 pm 21 Apr 20

    Its a bad idea.

    Peter Bojkowski Peter Bojkowski 12:08 pm 21 Apr 20

    Yes why Matt Fallon?

    Harriet Torrens Harriet Torrens 12:39 pm 21 Apr 20

    The restrictions were always about buying time to build preparedness. This move is about improving preparedness. Given that a vaccine seems unlikely (at least for a while) and treatment protocols are still being developed, I am very ok with having a facility ready should we need it. I think the ACT Government has performed well. There’s no place I’d rather be than in Canberra and in Australia right now.

    Matt Fallon Matt Fallon 12:53 pm 21 Apr 20

    Peter Bojkowski we dont need it. We have had no overflow and there is only 1 case rn.

    Ed N Joanne Towner Ed N Joanne Towner 12:57 pm 21 Apr 20

    Matt Fallon Using that rationale nobody would prepare for anything even if all the advice( in this case medical) says prepare.

    Matt Fallon Matt Fallon 1:16 pm 21 Apr 20

    Ed N Joanne Towner Do you think rates are increasing?

    Ed N Joanne Towner Ed N Joanne Towner 1:37 pm 21 Apr 20

    Matt Fallon costs probably will but we need to be prepared. I will give you analogy Motorcycle rider doesn't buy protective riding gear. Rider may never has an accident so thinks they have saved money However most riders woll buy good gear because the advice says if you have am accident or an off the money is well spent. Anyway we are all entitled to our opinions mine is to err on the side of caution with this extra hosp facility.

    Rosie Jennings Rosie Jennings 1:42 pm 21 Apr 20

    Ed N Joanne Towner be prepared and it Might not happen. Our Emergency dept is very busy over winter without the virus. Great forward planning which the country has been lacking for awhile in lots of areas.

    Matt Fallon Matt Fallon 3:33 pm 21 Apr 20

    Darren Bryant the rider doesnt... The passenger should

    Felicity Jane Felicity Jane 6:12 pm 21 Apr 20

    Matt In the analogy the Garran field hospital is the helmet. The field hospital is protection for if/when the hospital isn't able to cope with the volume of cases.

    But if there was ever an argument for 2 helmets it's you.

    Matt Fallon Matt Fallon 6:16 pm 21 Apr 20

    Felicity Jane well i never. Seems a littlestupid to spend 23 million on something that wont be used. Thanks for backing it tho, cant wait for the increased taxes...

    Ed N Joanne Towner Ed N Joanne Towner 7:04 pm 21 Apr 20

    Matt Fallon Looks like you are gazing into that crystal ball again. You can't possibly know what is going to happen!

    Matt Fallon Matt Fallon 8:27 pm 21 Apr 20

    Ed N Joanne Towner we will see then

    Suzanne Tunks Suzanne Tunks 9:52 pm 21 Apr 20

    Matt Fallon only takes one undiagnosed case to trigger a big outbreak and close down two entire hospitals. Check out North West Tasmania at the moment. Imagine if they had a back up? Better to be safe then sorry.

    Matt Fallon Matt Fallon 9:55 pm 21 Apr 20

    Suzanne Tunks it is totally unnecessary and West Tassiedoesnt have our existing infrastructure

    Monica Millgate Monica Millgate 10:48 pm 21 Apr 20

    do you pay for insurance for your healthcare or house/possessions ? A lot do as we know the recovery would be to hard without it. This is the same in this Situation, to not prepare is a risk to great to take

    Suzanne Tunks Suzanne Tunks 11:28 pm 21 Apr 20

    ok Matt.

    Matt Fallon Matt Fallon 1:13 pm 22 Apr 20

    Monica Millgate Elective surgeries are back and we are still going through with this!?!?

Elspeth Shannon Rollason Elspeth Shannon Rollason 11:05 am 21 Apr 20

Use the Defence Forces if needed.

    Peter Bojkowski Peter Bojkowski 12:00 pm 21 Apr 20

    Elspeth Shannon Rollason Aspen Medical who one the contract are a major supplier to Defence and in the past have set up similar field hospitals in other countries.

    Elspeth Shannon Rollason Elspeth Shannon Rollason 2:52 pm 21 Apr 20

    Peter Bojkowski so what. Use Defence directly not some contractor. Would be great training for them

Lewis P Owlay Lewis P Owlay 10:29 am 21 Apr 20

I thought there were 0 cases currently in hospital 🤷🏼‍♂️

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