The latest tranche of health funding is “a drop in the ocean of what is ultimately required to extend the life of Canberra’s ailing hospital assets”, according to ACT Shadow Minister for Health, Vicki Dunne.
Ms Dunne said “expenditure on health infrastructure is absolutely vital and is now absolutely out of control because the government has neglected it for so many years”.
“There are infrastructure risks that the government has known and been warned about for years, but has failed to address,” she said.
This is reflected in a submission paper presented to the ACT Government in July last year, obtained by the Canberra Liberals through Freedom of Information.
According to the report, approximately 61% of the buildings at Calvary Public Hospital have less than 25% of life remaining “with it likely that the majority of these will need either major refurbishment or replacement during the next decade”.
The document suggests an indicative figure of $109 million “combined with recurrent and capital investment, over a five-year period and above current financial investment levels, is required to address condition and functionality performance gaps and avoid further deterioration of the buildings”.
In the 2019-20 ACT Budget, there is an additional $40.5 million investment in Calvary Public Hospital over the next four years for new services and infrastructure.
Minister for Health and Wellbeing Meegan Fitzharris said the investment will provide funding for 81 new doctors, nurses, administration and other health professionals at Calvary Hospital over two years. This includes 46 new staff in the new expanded Emergency Department (ED) once complete.
“It will expand Calvary’s capacity to perform elective surgery, with two new theatres being commissioned and 31 new staff to support the theatres as they come online – one theatre to come online in 2019-20 and the second theatre in 2020-21,” Ms Fitzharris said.
“And we will ensure more urology services are delivered at Calvary Public Hospital with an expanded service to meet the growing demand for urology surgery in the ACT, with four new staff.”
The Government also announced funding for the Surgical Procedures, Interventional Radiology and Emergency (SPIRE) Centre at The Canberra Hospital.
Ms Fitzharris said the SPIRE Centre will be “bigger and better than first planned” with the original scope expanded as a result of consultation with the clinical workforce. SPIRE will deliver 114 ED treatment spaces, as well as 60 ICU beds and 22 new state-of-the-art operating theatres.
It will be located at the eastern end of the Canberra Hospital campus with construction set for completion in 2023-24.
The ACT Government has also announced a $24.2 million package of investments to strengthen Canberra’s mental and justice health services with funding towards: planning for a new Police, Ambulance and Clinician Early Response; additional beds for Adult Mental Health Unit; more mental health services at Canberra Hospital; more support for mental health carers; diverting people with mental illness from the justice system; and enhanced drug and alcohol services for detainees in the Alexander Maconochie Centre.
Overall, the ACT Government is investing almost $1 billion in new and upgraded health infrastructure for Canberra over the next five years.