Caring for our future
In six months, the delivery of healthcare to the region will change, with the anticipated opening of the Sunshine Coast University Hospital in April next year. Nicole Fuge met with the chief executive of the Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service, Kevin Hegarty, to find out more about this historic project.
“What’s being created will fundamentally benefit the community for decades into the future and that’s a story that’s been largely yet untold,” Kevin Hegarty says in earnest, casting his eye over the impressive hospital site.
“To date, the focus has been so much on how good the construction has been for the economy – the jobs it’s created. But the impact from a health perspective and an economic perspective of what’s being created here is yet to be fully understood, let alone appreciated.”
Kevin is the chief executive of the Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service and says, “It’s very satisfying”, seeing the Sunshine Coast University Hospital near completion.
In 2005, the Queensland Government announced the construction of a new public hospital in the region, as part of its SEQ Infrastructure Plan 2005-2026.
In April 2017, the $1.8 billion hospital will open, improving and increasing the delivery of services to the region – meaning thousands of people will no longer have to travel to Brisbane to receive the care they need.
When SCUH is fully commissioned it is estimated that 10,000 people a year, who currently have to access inpatient services in Brisbane, will be able to receive that care here.”
“When a patient or a family goes through a journey of illness, their whole routine, their lifestyle, changes because of it. To have that further impacted on because the treatment is not available locally just adds to and exacerbates that situation,” says Kevin.
“When SCUH is fully commissioned it is estimated that 10,000 people a year, who currently have to access inpatient services in Brisbane, will be able to receive that care here.
“It’s new services, but also importantly increasing capacity in the services we already offer; it’s making us able to respond in the best possible way to the community’s needs.”
Among the new services being offered are radiation oncology and advanced cardiac services, as well as inpatient child and adolescent mental health.
Upon opening, the public hospital will use about 450 of its built capacity of 738 beds.
“Health care is advancing all the time, so what people were admitted to hospital for five years ago, let alone 10 years ago, doesn’t require admission now, and people also stay in hospital for a shorter period of time because there’s more community health care support,” Kevin says.
“We’ll be waiting and seeing what is needed, obviously utilising those beds to meet identified need, but what the community can be satisfied with is that capacity is there to be used in the future when needed – the design is further future-proof by the capacity to expand to 900 beds.”
Since the neighbouring Sunshine Coast University Private Hospital opened in November 2013, the 200-bed facility has provided around 100 beds to public patients to ensure extra capacity during construction of the new public hospital. But it will become an exclusively private hospital from 1 July, 2018.
“Our new hospital is Queensland’s first public hospital Public Private Partnership,” Kevin says.
We will test the facility under full technical load and (simulated) patient load, to make sure the staff on day one are fully versed with how the building operates, so they can concentrate on providing the care for the patients.”
Exemplar Health, a consortium comprising Lendlease, Siemens, First State Super and Capella Capital, with partners Spotless Facilities Services, are responsible for the design, construction, partial finance and maintenance of the hospital buildings, operating the car parks, providing a security service and maintaining the grounds for 25 years post its opening.
Meanwhile, the hospital will be staffed and operated by the Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service, with an expected 3000 staff to be based on site.
Over the past 12 years, senior clinicians have been directly involved in the project, from the physical design of the facility, to designing the models of care.
The expertise of staff from large tertiary hospitals, including Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, has also been obtained.
“Over the next few months we’ll get increasingly uninterrupted access to the building,” he says.
“Once construction is finished, the information technology and computer systems and medical equipment will be installed, and then it has to be tested. We will also be doing a series of clinical scenarios – we will test the facility under full technical load and (simulated) patient load, to make sure the staff on day one are fully versed with how the building operates, so they can concentrate on providing the care for the patients.”
Focus on medical research and education
The collocated Sunshine Coast Health Institute is the site’s skills academic and research centre, and is operated by the SCHHS, the University of the Sunshine Coast, TAFE Queensland East Coast and a yet-to-be-named second university featuring a medical school.
“They will be providing education, training and importantly, research, because SCUH will be a true tertiary teaching hospital,” Kevin says.
“So as well as being able to deliver the highly specialised services for here and now, the clinicians will also be involved in determining how to improve treatment options, treatment modalities and doing active research to influence how care is provided into the future.”
Sunshine Coast Health Institute facilities include:
- 370-seat auditorium
- 150-seat lecture theatre
- simulation suites, including state-of-the-art technology and exact replicas of a number of the hospital rooms, including: operating suite, intensive care bedroom, birthing suite and emergency
- resuscitation bay
- e-learning labs
- three clinical research laboratories
- multi-purpose learning areas
- dedicated workspace for each of the partners.
The health service currently employs a headcount of 5533 staff, which has increased by 468 in the past year.
More than full time equivalent 90 senior medical officers and over 1000 nursing, allied health, operational services and administrative roles will be filled by the time SCUH opens.
“This is an exciting, unprecedented period of employment growth and service expansion,” says Kevin.
“And the expanded range of services is creating career opportunities that previously were not available on the Sunshine Coast.”
The services provided include:
- tertiary level emergency department services
- comprehensive cancer services, including on site radiotherapy.
- specialised medical and surgical services, including maxillofacial surgery, a major trauma service and paediatrics
- maternity service, including neonatal care for premature babies to a level not currently available
- acute rehabilitation service
- mental health inpatient service, importantly including the Coast’s first inpatient child and adolescent capacity
- renal service
- interventional and diagnostic clinical support services, including a PET scanner for diagnosing certain types of cancer and cardiac catheterisation laboratories
- ambulatory care (outpatient) services
- allied health services
Future of Nambour General Hospital and Caloundra Health Service
Nambour General Hospital will continue to be an important hospital on the Sunshine Coast. Nambour hospital has been expanded as a staging post to help develop and transition services to SCUH.
While its future role will be different from its current role, it will remain a large (250 bed), important regional hospital.
The expanded range of services is creating career opportunities that previously were not available on the Sunshine Coast.”
Caloundra Health Service will continue to provide essential sub-acute, outpatient and community health services following the opening of the SCUH.
Both Nambour and Caloundra have been allocated funds by the State Government so they can be made fit for purpose for their ongoing and changed roles. Both will be offering services that are not currently offered.
Caloundra will be home to a child development clinic, while continuing to be the base of the region’s ophthalmology service and having its palliative care capacity doubled.
Nambour will see the creation of a sub-acute rehabilitation service. It will temporarily reduce to 134 beds while major construction work occurs.
The Adem Crosby Centre will provide comprehensive oncology, clinical haematology and radiation oncology services.
Two Elekta Versa HD linear accelerators (worth about $5.6 million in total) will be used to deliver radiotherapy to patients with cancer. More than 650 patients are forecast to receive 13,000 treatments from the linear accelerators in the first year of operation. The linear accelerators will enable clinicians to provide targeted treatment of tumours in the spine, breast and prostate.
These services have not previously been offered in a public hospital on the Sunshine Coast.
Advanced cardiac services will be a feature of the new hospital.
As part of the planned increase of services in the lead up to the opening of SCUH, the SCHHS has grown key services such as cardiology to a tertiary level. The development of a Cardiac Catheterisation Laboratory (Cath Lab) in April 2012 at Nambour General Hospital is an example of this strategy. Public patients requiring intervention for cardiac conditions now access the service locally.
The Cath Lab performs about 1600 coronary angiograms a year including stent procedures. The lab has available adjunctive technologies to assist with coronary assessments, including fractional flow reserve measurement, intravascular ultrasound and optical coherence tomography.
The region has one of the busiest services in the state, performing more than 200 emergency interventions for high risk heart attack patients a year. Prior to 2012 most of the types of patients that now receive this care locally needed to wait for transfer to a Brisbane public hospital.
When SCUH opens, the current Cath Lab will be part of the further expanded services that will be developed at the tertiary facility.
Child and adolescent mental health
For the first time, the Sunshine Coast region will have a dedicated six-bed adolescent mental health inpatient unit. The unit will also offer a day program for clients not requiring admission. The unit will provide care to the young person and their family with child and youth psychiatrists, specialised nurses and allied health professionals.
The unit will work in an integrated way with the existing community child and youth mental health service to provide an expanded range of assessment and treatment choices to local youth. The unit has single ensuite rooms with access to an outdoor area and an indoor courtyard.
Therapeutic areas include:
- sensory room
- low stimulus / quiet room
- multi-purpose activity room
- computer room