The $1.2 billion Perth Children’s Hospital is finally about to open after three years of delays, lead and asbestos contamination and two legionella disease scares.
The hospital, originally expected to open in August, 2015, will accept its first patients from Monday.
The WA Premier and the Health Minister were among 300 people at the opening, which was welcomed across the political divide — with former premier Colin Barnett in attendance.
Health Minister Roger Cook was quick to spruik the opening as a victory for patients, their families and hospital staff.
“It’s with a great sense of pride and none too small amount of relief that we open the hospital,” Mr Cook said.
“I want to acknowledge the hard work of everyone who has brought us to this point.”
He said there would be a staggered opening with the first outpatients accepted on Monday, surgery to open two weeks later and the emergency department to open on June 10 to coincide with the closure of the 108-year-old Princess Margaret Hospital building.
Legionella bacteria was first detected in the new building in October last year and it was found in 45 of 100 sampled locations earlier this month, but the Minister reassured people today that the hospital had been thoroughly tested.
“All the issues in relation to the water have been resolved, and the recent outbreak of some bacteria and legionella has been the subject of rigorous testing over the last fortnight,” Mr Cook said.
He said the bacteria was now contained and was a much simpler fix than the lead issues, which also plagued the hospital.
“It simply involved the treatment of chlorine, which was flushed through the system to make sure we got on top of any outbreaks and subsequent to that, treatment process — the water here has been tested within an inch of its life.”
“With any complex piece of health infrastructure like this, there is always round-the-clock testing of the water to make sure the systems are continuing to work as they should.”
WA Premier Mark McGowan said the hospital was a premiere site for children and their families while receiving treatment.
“This is a terrific new building — 298 beds, the best of services, the best of technology, the staff will provide world class care here for West Australian children,” Mr McGowan said.
“I look forward to this hospital serving our community for decades, if not centuries to come.”
A long list of issues
The basement of the hospital was flooded by a burst pipe during construction, 900 fire doors had to be replaced, and key members of the hospital’s leadership team resigned.
The site was costing the Government $6 million a month to sit idle with no patients — that included about $6,000 a day in power bills and $700,000 a month to contractor Capella Parking for empty car bays.
There was also a raft of other construction issues at the hospital, including problems at the on-site childcare facility, mental health unit, isolation rooms and with anaesthetic gas delivery.
Nearly three years of delays cost the state more than $115 million, including more than $20 million in compensation payments for the operators of the empty hospital.
The hospital was originally scheduled to open in 2015 under the Liberal Barnett government which instigated the project.
Opposition Leader Mike Nahan and Perth MP Julie Bishop at the opening of Perth Children’s Hospital. (ABC News: Sarah Collard)
In a statement, Opposition Leader Mike Nahan said the facility was “world class”.
“It is a magnificent facility and I congratulate everyone who was part of the building of the hospital,” he said.
“I am pleased it is open and will be taking patients — all West Australians can be proud of this hospital. It is their hospital.”
The Government was unable to confirm if there would be any further legal action involving building contractor John Holland in relation to the delays.
They had sought $300 million in compensation for changes made to the hospital plans after construction had begun.