Thursday 6th May 2021

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  • $40 million bill to rectify ‘extreme and high risks’ across Canberra Hospital

    The bill to rectify “extreme and high risks” linked to ageing Canberra Hospital infrastructure was put at more than $40 million in an audit last year.

    The ACT Health asset condition assessment report, tabled in the ACT Legislative Assembly on Tuesday, assessed all ACT Health’s infrastructure assets.

    It found the total cost of infrastructure repairs and replacement at the hospital alone came to $131.1 million, funds expected to be spent over a decade from last year.

    The audit found extreme risks linked to the hospital’s main switchboard, helipad, gas meter and windows in the hospital’s main ‘tower block’, building one.

    But the vast majority of the 600-odd issues highlighted across 31 ACT Health properties were low or medium risks, ranging from broken handrails and poorly maintained carpets to more serious electrical supply systems.

    Health Minister Meegan Fitzharris said work to rectify the “extreme risks” was underway, with a replacement helipad completed earlier this year.

    But she confirmed work to replace the main switchboard was  not expected to be complete until June next year, more than two years after the AECOM recommended it be replaced during 2016, as it had already “exceeded [its] useful life”.

    The AECOM report also found a second switchboard was needed to help “provide redundancy” for the first, and two key generators at the hospital also needed replacement.

    ​It was not until days after a fire in the switchboard that caused evacuations of patients and cancelled surgeries, that ACT Health signed a contract for the work to be completed, which Ms Fitzharris described as a coincidence.

    The audit showed only four individual buildings across the hospital had “more than $5 million of issues identified”: buildings one, three, 10 and 12.

    “Buildings B1 B10 and B12 are critical to enduring clinical services, especially B12, which contains critical services such as emergency, interventional suites (theatres) and ICU,” the report reads.

    “B1 has over $20 million of extreme and high risk issues which by definition require urgent action.”

    Ms Fitzharris said the work to replace the ageing main switchboard would be completed in June next year, more than two years after it was identified as an “extreme risk”.

    Works to repair the other three “extreme” risks at the hospital was underway on a gas meter and windows in building one, and the helipad had already been replaced.

    Ms Fitzharris said the report was commissioned to identify infrastructure work to do, of which some $95 million was funded in last year’s budget – but the government has not fully answered previous questions in the assembly about the details of that funding.

    She also agreed to an Opposition motion on Wednesday to provide an itemised summary updating the status of rectification works on the more than 140 other “high risks” identified in the report.

    That summary, she said, would be provided to the legislative assembly in September sittings this year.

    Ms Fitzharris also said Chief Minister Andrew Barr’s failed claim of ‘executive privilege’ over the document, to prevent its public release, was made because of concerns about releasing Cabinet documents.

    But she also confirmed the report itself was not actually included in a brief of “decision-making documents” before Cabinet at the time.

    Ms Fitzharris also said she only received the full report in the past few months, despite having held the health portfolio since October last week.

    The AECOM report also found some $32.4 million of works were needed at Calvary Public Hospital.

    Of those works, none were rated ‘extreme’, $4.1 million was rated ‘high risk’, $23 million was rated ‘medium risk’ and $5.3 million was rated ‘low risk’.

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