The ACT government will commit more than $90 million across an expanded Canberra Hospital to boost the intensive care unit and add extra emergency surgery capacity.
The upcoming territory budget will include $28.4 million over three years to add four beds to Canberra Hospital’s intensive care unit, including a boost to staff.
The additional beds are part of plans to transfer the unit to the new critical services building at Canberra Hospital, and are expected to help treat COVID-19 patients.
The government expects the project to physically expand the intensive care unit to be finished by the end of the year, with the budget allocation needed to open the larger facility to patients.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said more beds in the intensive care unit would help put the ACT in a strong position to respond to the “ongoing challenges” of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The $90.3 million investment across the ICU, ED and emergency surgery initiatives will meet future demand in our growing region and support the response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mr Barr said in a statement.
“We could anticipate if we opened up at 70 per cent case numbers in the thousands every day and that would be an alarming figure and we’d overrun our health system,” Mr Barr said last week.
Work began to increase the number of intensive care beds in the ACT in April last year in response to the first wave of COVID-19 infections in Australia.
The physically expanded intensive care unit at the Canberra Hospital will provide greater capacity to surge up the number of beds if there is patient demand.
The government will also commit $39 million in its October 6 budget to add 1920 hours of emergency surgery theatre time and eight surgical beds at the hospital.
Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said there had been a rapid growth in demand for emergency surgery, and the extra money would allow the hospital to meet the demand while also balancing the need to deliver elective surgery.
“The emergency department is the front door to Canberra Hospital and the team do an incredible job supporting people from the ACT and surrounding region when they need urgent care,” Ms Stephen-Smith said in a statement.
“The initiatives funded through the Budget will drive improved performance, ensuring Canberrans continue to get access to the right care at the right time.”
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Close to $23 million will be spent over four years to expand the emergency department’s emergency medical unit to 18 treatment spaces and introduce a new acute medical unit.
The government said the acute medical unit would mean people who presented to the emergency department with multiple medical issues could be admitted faster to the hospital.
The funding will also increase the health workforce within the emergency department, including a so-called “medical navigator”.
A skilled nurse working in that role will liaise with the senior medical team within the emergency department to ensure patients are treated in the right location and are transferred to the appropriate inpatient ward.
Ms Stephen-Smith said at the time there had been consultation on the new emergency department and other aspects of expansion for the past 18 months, and it was appropriate to fast-track its approval.
“Consultation that we’ve done with the community set up the development application to be a really strong application,” she said.
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