Better Hospital Services for Belconnen

“I am contacting you on behalf of a group of Salaried and Visiting Medical Officers to inform you that we are gravely concerned about the health and hospital services available to the North Canberra community.”

Salaried and Visiting Medical Officers, in a letter to Jeremy Hanson, Leader of the Opposition.

Calvary Hospital in Belconnen is one of only two emergency departments in the entire ACT, and is the only major hospital currently servicing the entire north side of Canberra.

From data supplied by Calvary hospital, in 2015-16:

  • 1771 babies were born;
  • there were 57,395 Emergency Department presentations;
  • 70% were seen within ACT and national emergency department waiting time benchmarks;
  • 22% of these patients were admitted to hospital;
  • 5453 operations were performed; and
  • 1738 endoscopy procedures were performed.

The relationship between the ACT Government and Calvary Hospital has been fraught, with a failed attempt to purchase the hospital, and infrastructure and services seen as secondary to those of the Canberra Hospital, which faces challenges of its own as all focus of the Labor Greens Government moves to the tram.


In 2016, a group of salaried and visiting medical officers wrote to Andrew Barr and to the Leader of the Opposition and stated:


“Our concerns have been building for a long time, and we have reached the point where we have decided to raise this matter in a more open fashion. While many of us work in one capacity or another at Calvary Hospital, we feel that our issues go beyond the funding and activity plans that ACT Health intend for Calvary. We urge you to consider our representation in the context of long term and sustainable equity across the community for the health and hospital services they need.”



They noted in a submission that:


“We are also seeing the following trends:

  • Consistently growing Emergency Department presentations and a growing population in north Canberra, which is expected to grow in the future.
  • Increasing age and complexity of medical and surgical patients.
  • Obstetric patients from the Calvary catchment areas electing to have their maternity care at the Canberra Hospital due to the out of date obstetric facilities at Calvary Public Hospital.
  • Paediatric patients suitable for a short stay admission requiring transfer to the paediatric service at the Canberra Hospital due to lack of paediatric in-patient services.”


Their submission continues:


“We are concerned that these trends, allied with the limited and aging infrastructure at Calvary Public Hospital will have adverse consequences for patients and staff. The social and logistical dysfunction for north Canberra residents accessing facilities and services they could reasonably expect to find at Calvary as their closest and convenient public hospital, we believe to be unacceptable.”


Jeremy Hanson, Leader of the Opposition, contacted the doctors and received a brief on the needs identified and the solutions required to deliver what the doctors referred to as “fundamental to achieving equity of service and access for residents of north Canberra.”



The Canberra Liberals’ solution

The Canberra Liberals believe all Canberrans deserve and need access to first class health services, no matter where they live.


To address the grave concerns of the doctors working in this area, the Canberra Liberals created an $18.3 million package to deliver these services. The package will provide the following extra services for residents of the Belconnen area.


Emergency Department expansion


Increase adult short stay unit (SSU) by 8 beds to create net total of 15 adult and 4 paediatric SSU beds. This also includes a procedure room and a paediatric consultation room.

Expanded midwifery-led model of care


Additional funding will enable this popular service to enrol 128 more women each year over the next 4 years. Under the model, women are cared for by the same midwife for the duration of pregnancy, the birth and post-natal care. Capital funding will provide an additional two beds and more midwives.


Upgrade of inpatient mental health facilities


The planned transfer of aged care rehabilitation to the Canberra University Hospital will enable Calvary’s current general mental health unit to move into the same building as the older persons mental health service (Keaney Building), providing a dedicated public mental health hub on campus. The capital cost will cover refurbishment to accommodate mental health patients.


Extra Nurses

12 new nurses will be provided for the extra services provided in this package.



“Our major support for Calvary Hospital means residents of

Belconnen will not be left behind, as I make health my number one priority, not the tram.”

Jeremy Hanson, Leader of the Opposition.