By Benjamin Preiss and Melissa Cunningham
Fear over hospital’s decrepit buildings
Melbourne’s leading trauma hospital needs more than $2 billion to overhaul leaky roofs, cracking walls and flooded wards. Senior doctors are pleading with the state government to urgently upgrade The Alfred hospital’s dilapidated buildings, which they say are hindering their work and forcing surgeries to be relocated.
Home to one of Melbourne’s major trauma centres and its leading burns unit, The Alfred treats more than 1500 of the most severely injured Victorians each year. The government insists it is delivering the greatest number of hospital projects in Victoria’s history, but there are fears The Alfred has fallen into disarray.
“We’ve got The Alfred, which is falling down around our ears, and situations of multiple roof leaks,” said Professor John Wilson, chairman of the Senior Medical Staff Association, which represents thousands of specialists in the state’s hospitals.
Professor Wilson, who oversees treatment of lung disorders at The Alfred, believes other hospitals across the state have been forced to close wards because buildings are in disrepair. Many buildings in Melbourne’s major hospitals were between 50 and 100 years old and no longer fit for purpose, he said.
“The problem is we are actually causing a risk to patients and staff by working in environments where the roof leaks or where pieces fall off,” he said. “It’s starting to become unsafe.”
HOSPITAL IN CRISIS
Concrete cladding fell from an external wall this week.
Cancer, stroke, palliative care wards flooded this year.
Dozens of heart, lung surgeries shifted to Cabrini Health Mobile operating theatre set up for surgeries for two months.
Heavy rain and faulty pipes caused severe flooding in January, forcing the hospital’s cardiac surgical program to relocate to Cabrini Health in Malvern for four months. In April a temporary operating theatre was set up for another two months for heart and lung surgeries while extensive repairs were undertaken. The hospital’s seventh floor, which houses wards for cancer, stroke and infectious disease and palliative care patients, was also hit by flooding this year. Last week a large slab of cement fell from a decommissioned hospital building near Alfred Lane, leaving smashed cement scattered outside. A $100 million roofing project, funded by the government, was completed in September. Images obtained by The Age, however, show roofs across The Alfred were still leaking this week.
The Australian Medical Association warned of a “funding crisis” hitting public hospitals. AMA Victorian president Julian Rait said The Alfred was in the “worst shape” of Melbourne’s hospitals and a recent evacuation of an operating theatre due to leaking pipes “would have cost them a packet.”
He added: “It does show the frailty of the infrastructure if that’s what they had to do.” He is calling for the hospital to get a $2 billion overhaul within the next five years.
“While the Victorian government has gained a great deal of kudos with its focused investment on transport infrastructure, it has taken its eye off the public hospital infrastructure needs across the state,” he said.
Building maintenance costs across Alfred Health’s group of hospitals have more than doubled from $3.5 million in 2015 to about $8.1 million this year. Health Minister Jenny Mikakos stressed record funding had gone into healthcare, alongside the “biggest pipeline of hospital projects in Victoria’s history.”
This included 10 new community hospitals and dedicated children’s emergency departments in Geelong, Maroondah, Casey, Frankston and Northern hospitals. Ms Mikakos said the government had also spent $69.5 million on “urgent infrastructure” work at The Alfred hospital, $70.6 million on infrastructure at the Austin and $40 million on “critical works” at the Royal Melbourne Hospital.
Opposition health spokeswoman Georgie Crozier said Victoria was in a dire health funding crisis.
“Daniel Andrews’ ongoing mismanagement of Victoria’s budget means vital health infrastructure is now at risk,” she said.
Professor Wilson estimated activity in Melbourne’s major hospitals had swelled by more than 20 per cent since 2014. Melbourne is forecast to be Australia’s largest city by 2026, with a projected population of up to 12.2 million.
“Who on earth is going to be able to undertake that care if there is no space and the buildings are falling down?” Professor Wilson said.
An Alfred Health spokeswoman confirmed storm damage and faulty pipes had caused building damage.
“We continue to provide modern, high-quality care in buildings that were designed for another time,” she said.
“By working with other providers, our staff were able to continue delivering care away from the disruption and uncertainty of building works, which included significant repairs to our main ward block roof.”
She said Alfred Health was working alongside the government on its redevelopment masterplan, which includes an operating suite.
A link to THE AGE is HERE
28 Nov 2019 07:01 AM • 3AW, Melbourne (07:00 News)
Hosted by Newsreader
The Opposition has slammed [Daniel] Andrews Government over a funding shortfall that’s left the Alfred Hospital crumbling. According to senior doctors, the hospital needs more than $2b to fix flooded wards and cracking walls. The entire cardiac surgical area had to be relocated to Cabrini Hospital in Malvin. Shadow Health Minister Georgie Crozier states the patients, doctors, and staffs are at risk.
28 Nov 2019 11:02 AM • ABC Radio Melbourne, Melbourne (11:00 News)
Hosted by Newsreader
The Alfred Hospital CEO Professor Andrew Way says the Victorian Government band-aid solutions, like consistent renovations, will not be sustainable. Way urges the Government and the Department of Health to discuss major changes with them. Senior doctors call for a $2m overhaul to fix leaky roofs, cracking walls, and flooded wards in Melbourne’s largest trauma hospital. Opposition health spokeswoman Georgie Crozier says the Andrews Government neglecting hospital infrastructure risks patients’ lives.