Temporary COVID-19 ED takes shape despite cases falling away

Ian Bushnell 31 August 2020 84
Temporary ED

The temporary emergency department construction site last Friday. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The ACT’s temporary COVID-19 emergency department is taking shape on Garran Oval and is on target to be complete by mid-May.

The ACT Government contracted local company Aspen Medical to build and operate the facility at a cost of $23 million earlier this month when concerns were high that the ACT’s hospital system would be overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases if the virus spread through the Canberra population.

Since then, social distancing and other containment measures have reduced the presence of the virus in Canberra to virtually zero, with only two active cases isolating at home with ACT Health support.

But the government and health officials remain vigilant due to fears of a second wave of COVID-19 cases in the winter, particularly if restrictions are eased.

Garran ED

Garran Oval was selected because of its proximity to Canberra Hospital. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

“While we are seeing a decrease of confirmed cases in the Territory, we are continuing with plans for this facility to ensure we are prepared and well-resourced should we see an increase in cases,” an ACT Health spokesperson said.

Sited close to the Canberra Hospital campus for the fast and easy transfer of patients, work on the facility began on 9 April but the model of care and number of staff required at the facility is still to be determined.

When the 50-bed facility, including six resuscitation beds, was announced, Aspen Medical said it would need about 200 staff.

Aerial shot of the ED

An aerial shot of the site early in the construction. Photo: ACT Government.

The spokesperson said the ED remained a temporary facility and would only take patients with COVID-19.

”The facility will only be in place while the ACT is in a state of public health emergency,” the spokesperson said. “It will be removed, and Garran Oval will be fully restored once the state of health emergency is stood down.

”This facility has been built specifically to expand our capacity and enhance our ability to respond to COVID-19.”

The pre-fabricated, steel, rectangular structure is being manufactured off-site and then assembled on a concrete slab before being fitted out.

Constructing the ED

The pre-fab steel makes for quick construction. Photo: ACT Government.

It will be connected to the hospital via covered walkways.

Aspen Medical made its name globally providing rapid response medical services in many different locations, some remote and in epidemic situations, such as the African ebola outbreak.

The ACT Government has funded the $23 million project to the end of July, but Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith says it will continue operating after July if required.


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84 Responses to Temporary COVID-19 ED takes shape despite cases falling away
maxblues maxblues 1:27 am 01 May 20

How many more $millions will it cost to keep this facility (with a “yet to be determined” model of care) open when the contract expires in July?

Greg Miller Greg Miller 10:42 pm 30 Apr 20

People seem to forget that Canberra Hospital is the largest hospital in our region, and cases from across our region - most of which is in NSW - are sent here to access specialist doctors and significant equipment that smaller hospitals aren't able to handle. So this is being built with that wider role in mind, not just what Canberra needs

Peter McArdle Peter McArdle 9:44 pm 30 Apr 20

Hopefully it will be ready for the 2nd and 3rd waves of the pandemic.

Robert Mair Robert Mair 8:31 pm 30 Apr 20

Unless they is a second Covid-19 wave, this seems a waste of money!

    Ashley Latimer Ashley Latimer 9:07 pm 30 Apr 20

    Robert Mair flattening the curve isn't about erradicating the virus - it is going to be with us for a very long time, so it is better to be prepared than to not be. Even if ACT is fairing well, we're surrounded by NSW who're still seeing new infections.

    Monty Ki Monty Ki 1:53 pm 02 May 20

    Robert Mair if it's a "waste of money" that means we have been successful and that is a great thing to celebrate. Imagine if we go the other way, like Italy? Then people like you would be mourning the loss of loved ones (or dying yourself in a horrible way) wondering why the government hadn't done anything. Be grateful it's a "waste of money" because it means we have been spared a worse fate... for now at least. If a second wave of this pandemic occurs, you may change your mind about this.

Carole Ford Carole Ford 8:16 pm 30 Apr 20

We should not dismiss the potential of Covid19 to re-emerge and start a second wave. Winter is coming along with the latest flu. 😷🤧🤒😱

Mackenzie Helen Mackenzie Helen 7:47 pm 30 Apr 20

They know whats coming

Daniel Howell Daniel Howell 6:44 pm 30 Apr 20

Hahaha gotta love Canberra

Corey Karl Corey Karl 5:01 pm 30 Apr 20

$23 million for something that may, or may not be used ??? Maybe they could turn it into emergency homeless shelter when the pandemic is over and actually use it for something good

    Eddie Majcic Eddie Majcic 6:22 pm 30 Apr 20

    Corey Karl Arh good thinking mate. Upstairs for thinking downstairs for dancing. Unfortunately for Canberrans Barr's mob have it the other way around

Mark Dawson Mark Dawson 4:27 pm 30 Apr 20

It could always be used for people recovering from elective surgery if they need to catch up with the backlog of cancelled operations.

Warwick Bradly Warwick Bradly 4:26 pm 30 Apr 20

While acknowledging the initial requirement, Is this more of a land grab? Will the land be restored to its original purpose?

    Peter Bojkowski Peter Bojkowski 5:05 pm 30 Apr 20

    Warwick Bradly Yes, that was made clear when the field hospital was announced. It's a designated open space area and the oval will be returned to that once the facility is no longer needed.

    Warwick Bradly Warwick Bradly 5:23 pm 30 Apr 20

    Peter Bojkowski Yes, however I've seen examples where land is taken for a 'temporary' purpose with little objection and then the temporary becomes very much permanent.

Katrina Wilson Katrina Wilson 4:22 pm 30 Apr 20

Should have got the Chinese to help, they whipped one up in 10 days

    Eddie Majcic Eddie Majcic 6:20 pm 30 Apr 20

    Katrina Wilson triple the size and not made from canvas.

Zeddiculus9 Zeddiculus9 4:19 pm 30 Apr 20

Clearly the A.C.T. government has plans to use the green space after they realise this 23 million dollar tent isn’t money well spent.
Bet ya building permissions have begun already. (Carpark, medical staff residencies, townhouses)
Bye bye Garran oval!!

    JC JC 8:02 am 03 May 20

    Seeing as they are the government if they did have grand plans like that they wouldn’t need to use a temporary field hospital as an excuse. Time to give the conspiracy theories rest.

Ado Hajdar Ado Hajdar 4:14 pm 30 Apr 20

For all those people being negative with your comments.... Would you rather $ being spend for something that may not be needed (right now or in the future)? Or would you prefer not being prepared and end up having hundreds if not thousands of people dead in future pandemics (which I hope we don’t get)

PS Good job ACT Government!! 👍

    Brian Ashcroft Brian Ashcroft 5:20 pm 30 Apr 20

    IF, and only If, we have a second wave-and noting we handled the first wave without this facility, and now have better experience and community understanding-I cannot see a scenario where a second wave would be worse and that such a facility would be needed-plans should have been shelved for if and when required

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 5:51 pm 30 Apr 20

    Brian Ashcroft you clearly haven’t been watching the CMO’s press conferences.

    I will paraphrase but cast your mind back the whole idea of social isolation was to flatten the curve, to get us into a state where the medical system can cope.

    Now the curve has been flattened some restrictions will be eased and in doing so the CMO fully expects that outbreaks WILL occur but occur in a manageable way. Part of managing is faculties like this.

    Brian Ashcroft Brian Ashcroft 5:57 pm 30 Apr 20

    from out break to a critical situation does not happen in five minutes-have it designed, approved, services ready to connect-totally effective without a premature over commitment-common practice, as we did with the exploration of effluent recycling-on the shelf if needed

    Beretta Sambo Beretta Sambo 7:37 pm 30 Apr 20

    Brian Ashcroft it’s a field hospital mate, used all over the world for decades. It will allow normal business to occur in the main hospital so those that need urgent care that is not COVID-19 related to actually happen as it hasn’t been allowed for those that need it. Think more broadly my friend

    Brian Ashcroft Brian Ashcroft 8:03 pm 30 Apr 20

    its a bloody oval and has been for 50yrs-they don't need a field hospital-you have no idea what you are talking about

    Steph Burgess Steph Burgess 9:09 am 01 May 20

    If i may offer this up... I know someone who is a part of the escalation effort (a sensible, effective individual not prone to overreaction or grandstanding) and he recently said, “We’ve built the Ark, we’re ready for the flood... now what we’re all desperately hoping for is a bone dry winter.” Indeed.

    Dusanka Stankovic Dusanka Stankovic 4:08 pm 02 May 20

    Brian Ashcroft is it not better to be prepared even if it’s just for an ‘if’ 🤔

Al Frahri Al Frahri 4:08 pm 30 Apr 20

I know we dont like China at the moment but they would have had this thing up within a week of the decision to build it.

    Mark Dawson Mark Dawson 4:25 pm 30 Apr 20

    And it would have likely fallen down a week later.

    Al Frahri Al Frahri 4:27 pm 30 Apr 20

    Mark Dawson after doing its intended job when it was needed. This one will come in over time and budget and be useless.

    Robyn Holder Robyn Holder 2:01 am 01 May 20

    Mark Dawson not funny.

    Robyn Holder Robyn Holder 2:03 am 01 May 20

    And what if you pull it down and it's your family that need it? Preparation is everything and it could still be needed if restrictions are forcibly relaxed.

    Katie Lou Katie Lou 11:30 am 01 May 20

    Keeping people employed I guess

Brian Ashcroft Brian Ashcroft 3:59 pm 30 Apr 20

seems pointless-good idea at the start, when the future was somewhat unknown, but now seems unnecessary

    Tara Murray Tara Murray 4:07 pm 30 Apr 20

    Brian Ashcroft how do you know it’s unnecessary can see the future where theres no second wave?

    Brian Ashcroft Brian Ashcroft 4:08 pm 30 Apr 20

    doubt it would be bigger then the first wave, given out experience in dealing with it

    David Newman David Newman 4:10 pm 30 Apr 20

    Brian Ashcroft, hindsight is a wonderful thing and it may yet be necessary, but let’s hope it’s not. Think of it as insurance; you never want to claim on a policy but you don’t want to be caught short not having one if you find you need it.

    Brian Ashcroft Brian Ashcroft 4:11 pm 30 Apr 20

    just my opinion-and I hope I am right

    Matthew Harvey Matthew Harvey 4:45 pm 30 Apr 20

    Brian Ashcroft I guess on the up side this could be a useful trial run for the next pandemic. They could store all the pre-fab and roll it out much faster next time.

    Peter Bojkowski Peter Bojkowski 4:59 pm 30 Apr 20

    Brian Ashcroft The ACT Government does not have a crystal ball. No one could envisage where the territory would end up with this virus and we should be thankful of the position we are in. The field hospital is a safeguard to what may be a second wave. Good on the government for forward thinking.

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 5:53 pm 30 Apr 20

    Brian Ashcroft better to be looking at it than looking for it.

Chris Goodrum Chris Goodrum 3:52 pm 30 Apr 20

Unfortunately I feel there will be a big second wave, hope I am wrong!

David Berkelmans David Berkelmans 3:52 pm 30 Apr 20

Can turn it into an indoor futsal slab?

Michael Stachow Michael Stachow 3:45 pm 30 Apr 20

ACT Government at it’s best.

    Peter Bojkowski Peter Bojkowski 5:02 pm 30 Apr 20

    Michael Stachow Yes it's very best. They should be commended on their forward thinking. No one could envisage what was to come and where we'd be now.

    Jane Kim Jane Kim 12:56 pm 02 May 20

    Michael Stachow yes, its very best. No one knows what could still happen in a second wave. Better to be safe, i.e. prepared, than sorry.

Craig Parks Craig Parks 3:22 pm 30 Apr 20

And there is no one in the ACT with Corona ATM.......

    Tara Murray Tara Murray 3:25 pm 30 Apr 20

    Craig Parks read the article its a temporary building incase a second wave hits if everything goes back to normal it will be removed

    Craig Parks Craig Parks 3:28 pm 30 Apr 20

    Tara Murray At a cost of $23 million apparently.

    Berk Alex Canturk Berk Alex Canturk 3:33 pm 30 Apr 20

    Craig Parks yes it doesn’t seem like a waste of money at this second but think about it from the perspective of what if we had ended up like New York. We would have been on the other end of the scale where wishing they could build that site sooner. Unfortunately we aren’t in a position like China where you can build an entire hospital in a week. Also who knows if we get hit with second wave or not. Rather have something there then end up like New York is surely a much attractive choice.

    Neil Chandler Neil Chandler 3:39 pm 30 Apr 20

    Craig Parks so if you were in charge, what would you do instead? Its a no win situation - if you dont build it and the hospitals get overwhelmed, people would be screaming that you didnt do enough and had blood on your hands. If you build it and it isnt needed people whine about how they wasted "their" money and call for blood...

    Chris Vlahos Chris Vlahos 4:08 pm 30 Apr 20

    Yep stupidity.

    Why can they not use the hospitals public and private we already have and upgrade them in preparation. We only had a minimum amount of cases compared to every other state and they aren't building new buildings for a just in case second wave scenario.

    Wouldn't it be better putting that 23 million into the current hospitals for permanent improvements 🤔

    Steve Whan Steve Whan 4:09 pm 30 Apr 20

    Craig Parks

    Key words are “ATM”.

    Darren Bryant Darren Bryant 4:19 pm 30 Apr 20

    Craig Parks no that’s the total cost when operating, but nice try 👏🏼

    Christie Hartfiel Christie Hartfiel 4:28 pm 30 Apr 20

    I’d rather have a hospital we don’t need that not have a hospital we do need. And if you’ve ever been to the Canberra Hospital Emergency, you know we already need this!

    Peter Bojkowski Peter Bojkowski 4:52 pm 30 Apr 20

    Chris Vlahos This facility was announced about a month ago and construction is in progress as you can see. Just because there are no active cases today (thankfully) doesn't mean there won't be a second wave. The ACT has done everything right so far and should be commended to having the territory in the position it is with the virus. Construction is sure to finish in a couple of weeks and whether it ends up being fully utilised or not. The money is well spent.

    Peter Bojkowski Peter Bojkowski 4:54 pm 30 Apr 20

    Neil Chandler Spot on you've nailed it. Great reply.

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 5:54 pm 30 Apr 20

    Craig Parks mostly funded by the Feds as part of the Covid19 response.

    Aldith Graves Aldith Graves 6:50 pm 30 Apr 20

    Chris Vlahos because our hospitals are filled to capacity & beyond every winter & people with pneumonia & respiratory issues can’t be treated. Add a second wave of COVID19 to the mix & a new temporary facility is needed

    Shane Jasprizza Shane Jasprizza 7:17 pm 30 Apr 20

    Berk, if China CAN build a hospital in a week, what is Australia’s excuse?

    Chris Vlahos Chris Vlahos 7:48 pm 30 Apr 20

    Aldith Graves thats why i said use the money to expand the current hospitals so they have a permanent upgrade they can use for future use.

    The temp structure they are currently building will be pulled down and might not even be used.

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 9:28 pm 30 Apr 20

    Chris Vlahos $23m wouldn’t go too far in relation to permanent facilities.

    As for our minimum numbers at one stage we had the second highest rate in Aus on a per capita basis. Think tassie has overtaken us mostly due to the hospital outbreak they are now number 1. Followed by NSW, then SA and the ACT. The difference between SA and ACT is 0.18 of a percent.

Jackie Warburton Jackie Warburton 3:19 pm 30 Apr 20

What a waste money.

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