Estimates the relocation of South Australia’s Women’s and Children’s Hospital (WCH) could cost up to $1.8 billion need to be tested, the State Health Minister has said.
- SA Health says a new Women’s and Children’s Hospital will cost up to $1.8 billion
- A State Government taskforce is examining the cost and location options
- The Royal Adelaide Hospital opened in September and cost $2.44 billion
The estimated cost of the shift of the hospital from its current home in North Adelaide to its future home next to the Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH) places it as one of the most expensive infrastructure builds in the state’s history.
The RAH, completed in September last year, cost $2.44 billion, blowing out from its original cost of $1.8 billion.
The relocation costs were contained in a briefing, released under Freedom of Information laws, provided to Labor’s then-health minister Peter Malinauskas on February 1 after receiving sign off from the Health Department’s deputy chief executive Don Frater.
The briefing provides costs for the co-location of the WCH — which is Liberal Government policy — with the hospital build on an estimated area of 92,000 square metres costing up to $1.8 billion.
This would include use of the RAH to provide some support services.
The briefing also shows the former Labor government’s preferred option of a $528 million Adelaide Women’s Hospital was due to be opened by the end of 2024, with the identification of a site for a new Children’s Hospital in the area by the end of 2019.
The Women’s Hospital was to be linked to the RAH by a 180-metre bridge costed at up to $15 million with a walking time of roughly two minutes.
The site reserved for the new Women’s and Children’s Hospital adjacent to the Royal Adelaide Hospital. (ABC News: Tom Fedorowytsch)
Hospital ‘double the cost’ of similar builds
Health Minister Stephen Wade told ABC Radio Adelaide the estimate of the build needed to be tested as it was “double the cost” of the RAH per bed and outstripped the costs of similar hospital builds interstate.
“Even if the hospital is to have 300 beds, that cost per bed is almost double the RAH,” Mr Wade said.
He pointed to recent hospital builds that had been delivered at a cost far less per bed than the estimates for the Women’s and Children’s build.
This included the recently completed Perth Children’s Hospital that was delivered around 30 per cent less cost per bed, he said.
“This is not the only challenging site that a hospital has been built on — that’s exactly the context of the Perth [Children’s Hospital] in the context that it was co-located with another hospital,” he said.
“We will continue to work hard to deliver an affordable hospital but we are fundamentally committed to our policy of co-locating the Women’s and Children’s Hospital with the RAH.”
Site poses challenges
The briefing mentioned there were implications for the move of a co-located Women’s and Children’s Hospital to the site reserved next to the Royal Adelaide Hospital.
The State Government’s land agency Renewal SA has undertaken analysis of alternative sites in the area but details on this were redacted by SA Health before the document was publicly released.
The site reserved next to the RAH is approximately 85,000 to 94,000 square metres, excluding car parking, but comes with “likely challenges with access to harness the full site potential”.
It is bordered by the only rail corridor to Adelaide Railway Station, the main passenger terminal for all commuter trains in South Australia.
During the Royal Adelaide Hospital build, significant site contamination was discovered, resulting in additional costs to taxpayers and a blow out in construction timelines.
In April as opposition leader, Mr Malinauskas warned the costs of a co-located hospital on the site “can be in excess of $2.5 billion” because of the site’s challenges.
“We know that building over the railway lines brings with it very substantial cost and as you get closer to the river there are substantial engineering costs associated to it,” he said at the time.
He today reiterated the cost of the build was estimated to be high for a co-located WCH because of the complexities of the area, particularly the interaction with the railway lines, saying this was one of the reasons the former government had decided to proceed initially with a Women’s Hospital.
“It’s fair to say that there are strong arguments for having the Women’s and Children’s in one location as distinct from two separate ones,” Mr Malinauskas told ABC Adelaide radio.
“The problem is of course is it starts running into the complexities I that referred to earlier and the subsequent costs.”
The expansion site reserved next to the Royal Adelaide Hospital, top right, is bordered by railway tracks and North Terrace. (ABC News: Malcolm Sutton)
Government commitment to open by 2024
The SA Health document shows the separation of the women’s part of the hospital from the children’s remained contentious, with clinicians supportive of the co-location of services in the Royal Adelaide Hospital precinct.
It would likely result in a split neonatal intensive care unit between the two sites, with the potential for medical staff to have to travel between the two hospitals to see patients.
The decision to separate the Women’s and Children’s Hospital was criticised by the Liberal Party in the lead up to the March state election, with leader Steven Marshall committing to moving the hospital by 2024.
On election to government, Mr Marshall established a 15-person taskforce to examine options for the hospital move.
The taskforce, chaired by former Women’s and Children’s Hospital chief executive Jim Birch, will report to the Government by the end of the year.
“We want to respond to what the experts are telling us and our commitment is to have that co-located women’s and children’s hospital,” Mr Marshall said at the time.
The current WCH in North Adelaide does not have a helipad, which means critically ill children have to be first flown to the new RAH then transferred by ambulance.
The hospital also has no adult intensive care unit, which means seriously ill mothers are at times separated from their newborn children.
Rebecca Puddy was a media adviser to the former health minister.