Jan 2020

$2B Plea As The Alfred Starts To Crumble

Published in General on January 09, 2020

One of the main trauma centers in Melbourne is in dire need of renovation which costs over $2 billion to fix flooded wards, damaged walls, and cracked roofs. The Alfred Hospital attends to over 1500 Victorians annually who are in critical condition.

The senior doctors of this facility have been urging the state government to fix its deteriorated and unmaintained buildings. The condition of the hospital has been hampering their work. It has even been causing the relocation of several surgeries.

The government, on the other hand, claims that The Alfred Hospital has been providing the largest number of hospital projects in the history of the state. However, they also expressed their fears that the health center has fallen into shambles.

A storm back in January caused a massive flood inside the hospital. As an effect, its cardiac surgical program had no choice but to be transferred to Cabrini Health in Malvern which lasted for four months. It even affected the seventh floor which accommodates wards for infectious disease, stroke, palliative care, and cancer patients. Last April, a make-shift operating room was set up to house lung and heart surgeries while extensive overhauls on the building took place.

Just a week ago, a huge cement slab fell from a decommissioned hospital building near the Alfred Lane, and its remains were scattered outside.

A government-funded roofing project which costs at $100 million was completed at The Alfred last September. However, based on several images taken by The Age, it was revealed that the hospital’s roofs were still leaking.

The chair of the Senior Medical Staff Association, Professor John Wilson, expressed his dismay on the situation. His statement is made on behalf of thousands of specialists in Victoria’s hospitals.

“We’ve got The Alfred which is falling down around our ears and situations of multiple roof leaks," he said.

Professor Wilson is also in charge of managing the treatment of lung disorders at The Alfred. He believes other hospitals across the state have been forced to close wards because buildings are in disrepair.

Being responsible for overseeing lung disorder treatments at The Alfred, he claims that the wards of several hospitals in Victoria were left without option but to close due to its structural integrity.

He also said that the main hospitals in Melbourne have been standing for 50 to 100 years and are no longer its prime condition to deliver its purpose.

“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. It’s starting to become unsafe,” he added.

Public hospitals were also warned by the American Medical Association about a funding crisis. Julian Rait, who is the AMA Victoria president, stated that The Alfred hospital was in its worst shape and the relocation of its operating facility because of faulty pipes “would have cost them a packet”.

“It does show the frailty of the infrastructure if that’s what they had to do,” he said.
He is appealing for a $2 billion renovation on the Alfred within five years.

“Whilst 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.

The cost of The Alfred’s building maintenance soared from $3.5 million back in 2015 to roughly $8.1 million this 2019.

However, Jenny Mikakos, who is the Health Minister, maintained that there was government funding on several healthcare-related projects which includes the "biggest pipeline of hospital projects in Victoria's history", 10 new community hospitals, and emergency departments solely for children in Maroondah, Geelong, Casey, Northern, and Frankston hospitals.

She also added that the government-financed the urgent infrastructure costs at The Alfred worth $69.5 million, critical works at the Royal Melbourne Hospital amounting to $40 million, and additional infrastructure at Austin worth $70.6 million.

Georgie Crozier, who is the spokeswoman of Shadow health, expressed that the state of Victoria is experiencing a funding crisis.

“Daniel Andrews' ongoing mismanagement of Victoria’s budget means vital health infrastructure is now at risk,” she added.

According to Professor Wilson, the activity in Melbourne’s major hospitals approximately inflated by more than 20% since 2014.

By 2026, Melbourne will become the most populated city in Australia with a projected 12.2 million residents.

“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 stated.

A spokeswoman from Alfred Health confirmed that the damage to the building was caused by malfunctioning pipes and the storm that hit the area.

“We continue to provide modern, high-quality care in buildings that were designed for another time. By working with other providers our staff was 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.

She also added that the government is helping Alfred Health on the redevelopment of its master plan which includes a modern operating theater.