Progress on the ACT Government’s Surgical Procedures, Interventional Radiology and Emergency (SPIRE) Centre at the Canberra Hospital has come under fire from the Canberra Liberals.
Shadow Minister for Health Vicki Dunne has criticised the government’s handling of the project, suggesting a series of failures including blown-out completion dates as well as logistical and budgetary bungles.
She said the ordeal also shows a “lack of transparency” with much of the information “uncovered through Freedom of Information requests or tender searches by the Canberra Liberals and the media”.
“ACT Labor’s 2016 election commitment was a flash-in-the-pan response to the Canberra Liberal’s commitment to redevelop buildings 2 and 3 at The Canberra Hospital, which Labor dismissed as unnecessary,” Mrs Dunne said.
“What we ended up with from ACT Labor was a back-of-the-drinks-coaster plan for SPIRE. The planned site for SPIRE has had to be relocated and re-scoped with new budgets set (which they won’t reveal), and now we learn that construction won’t start until 2021 with completion at a very ambitious 2023-24.
“Meanwhile, there will be increasing capacity pressures in the emergency department, ICU and surgical theatres and beds.”
The ACT Government rejects the Canberra Liberals’ assertions regarding the SPIRE project.
According to an ACT Government spokesperson, the project is in its enabling works phase with preparatory works due to start this year.
“In order to free-up the site for the new emergency, surgical and critical care facility, a number of existing buildings must be vacated and demolished,” the spokesperson said. “The plans for relocating the existing functions from these two buildings are well advanced and works will commence on the placement of a new temporary building later in 2019.”
It is expected that preparatory, demolition and temporary construction activities will take place over this year and next year.
“The subsequent construction of the new facility itself is scheduled to commence in late 2020/early 2021 following receipt of development approval,” the spokesperson said. “The duration for construction is currently estimated at approximately three years and the new facility will be complete in 2023/24.”
ACT Minister for Health, Rachel Stephen-Smith, said SPIRE will be “the single largest investment in our health care system since self-government; this is a major project for the ACT Government and the Canberra region”.
“An investment of this magnitude requires extensive engagement with stakeholders and clinicians. The ACT Government has taken the time needed to get the project right and to ensure we’re delivering a facility that meets the needs of Canberrans now and into the future.”