SPIRE (Emergency) – ambulance entry moving from Yamba Drive to Palmer St, a residential street

The Surgical Procedures, Interventional Radiology and Emergency (SPIRE) Centre is a major health infrastructure project for Canberra and the surrounding region.

The WVCC supports this facility on the Canberra Hospital campus

The SPIRE Centre will increase the territory’s capacity to deliver acute, hospital-based health care in a modern, purpose-built facility. It will see $500 million invested in the Canberra Hospital campus.

The building will include:

  • more operating theatres for elective and emergency surgery
  • more inpatient beds and a larger intensive care unit
  • a coronary care unit for people requiring high level care for heart conditions
  • state-of-the-art surgical, procedural and imaging facilities
  • a significantly expanded ED, enabling capacity for specialist emergency healthcare for women and children
  • The first Woden Valley Hospital buildings were constructed between 1969 and 1973 and were ‘state of the art’ in their day.

This centrally located campus now provides an opportunity to plan for the staged development of a world class health precinct to meet the needs of the growing community over the coming decades.

The ACT Treasury forecasts (Population Projections 2018 to 2058 – released January 2019) Canberra’s population to reach 581,000 by 2040 and 703,000 by 2058 (also add the growing regional population).

The Precinct plan will require a strategy to replace the old hospital buildings while continuing to deliver the existing critical care services.

The current SPIRE site was chosen because it will minimise disruption to existing critical care services such as the emergency department and helipad.

Garran residents have expressed the following concerns about SPIRE on Palmer St.:

  • safety of the community (especially children) due to the ambulance movements on Palmer Street, a residential street opposite the Garran Primary School
  • traffic congestion on Kitchener St, Gilmore Cres and Palmer St which is the main entrance to Garran and Hughes from Hindmarsh Drive.
  • parking shortages
  • noise from the helicopter pad (on the 9 storey SPIRE).

The Garran residents have undertaken a petition which can be found at:  https://epetitions.act.gov.au/CurrentEPetitions.aspx

The broader community has raised concerns about the lack of a precinct plan to ensure the emergency building is sited in the best position for:

  • efficient ambulance acces
  • efficient and effective patient flows
  • connectivity to the rest of the precinct, including the wards, parking, education, accommodation and green peaceful places
  • staff well-being and a great culture in the work plac
  • a world class hospital precinct

Currently DA201936089 for the demolition of buildings 5 and 24 (site for SPIRE) is open for comment until 13 November 19, and can be found at: https://www.planning.act.gov.au/development_applications/pubnote/development_applications_ordered_by_district

The precinct also includes the former Woden Valley High School (then CIT). These buildings are were built in the 1960s by the Commonwealth and are structurally sound. They are not is use and available for refurbishment. They were recently approved for demolition.


In 2008-09 Budget, the ACT Government released the Your Health – Our Priority initiative which provided $300 million to begin work on a ten year plan for the renewal of health services for Canberra.

Under this initiative the Emergency building was to be located on Building 3 with access from Yamba Drive, there was a medi hotel and a training and education precinct in addition to the ANU medical school.

One Comment

  1. SPIRE development plan has created angst and anger among residents of Garran, staff and doctors at TCH, and people in NSW regional areas.

    Minister Stephen-Smith states the site is non-negotiable.
    The planning of the SPIRE site consisted of nothing outside the walls of the building nor the design of the internal departments. It gave no consideration to nearby residents, no consideration to traffic issues, no consideration to parking issues, no consideration to the impact on neighbourhood streets, no consideration to Garran Primary School. I raised the issue of a school being under the flight path and placing an emergency dept driveway within 50 metres of a school zone on a residential street. No answer. Next meeting a delegate for SPIRE briefly quietly said there are schools in close proximity to hospitals. The two I did catch was St George Hospital and the relatively new public/private venture hospital in northern Sydney. Take a look and see where the school and helipads are situated there…….no where near as close as this debacle.

    Let’s take a wander around the perimeter of the eastern boundary of the hospital site divided by Hospital Road so this includes Palmer St, Gilmore St, Hospital Road, Bateson St and Dann Close.
    Starting on Palmer St (a residential St) and corner of Dennis St looking down Palmer St towards the Garran Primary School. A residential street with residential houses six in total on the right, a traffic divider in the middle of the street for a purpose. Immediately to the left of the verge is the proposed driveway. The proposed driveway will be the entry site for demolition, construction, utility vehicles over a number of years including heavy machinery, semitrailers, cement trucks, cranes for example. Will it be two or four lanes? This will also include removing trees to accommodate the driveway which will include trees or bushes to provide a bird’s eye view of the pink elephant construction. Continue less than a stone throw and we come to the intersection of Palmer St and Gilmore Crescent.
    An ambulance spokesperson states ambulances do not come into Emergency Departments with sirens blazing and lights flashing at great speed. Questioned about driving through a school zone the answer was ambulances drive through school zones every day.
    BUT sir, how many school zones are within 50 metres of the third largest Emergency Department entrance in the country?

    Garran Primary School “school zone” on Gilmore Crescent accommodates vehicles for drop off and pickup of school children as well as visitors to the hospital. Midway in the zone we have a school crossing. Increased traffic equals increased risk for the school occupants.

    Another overlooked lack of consideration relating to the school is the noise that will be created by the chopper during school hours. The noise level for the primary school should be measured prior to SPIRE’s demolition derby begins. The Chief Minister and the Minister for Health should visit the site and experience this noise for themselves to fully understand the impact it will have on the kids eg frightening, interrupting concentration, can’t hear teachers talk, and the dust created in this dry time.

    Hospital Road to the left provides immediate access to the small entrance for drop off/pick up of NCPH users, to the right provides entrance for ACT Pathology and the Maternity wing. Short stay parking is available. Continuing on and to the left is a lane providing access for limited vehicle parking for NCPH and other TCH users. I can assume there will be a loss of parking spaces here immediately next to proposed SPIRE building. Back to Hospital Road….the lane divides NCPH from a relatively new building being the hospital library.
    Next to the library is a building for demolition : building 5. This building extends back to within a few metres of the eastern perimeter ie Palmer St. This building mirrors the TCH main entrance off Hospital Road. Divided by a small greenspace in the middle of the road. It’s a ‘weak stone throw’ from the entrance of either building. The problem here is the small area to be used by people accessing the Main entrance to TCH and the main Public entrance to SPIRE.
    Hospital Road is by no means a freeway it’s a narrow carriageway used by buses, taxis, utility vehicle, fire trucks, and public vehicles for drop off/ pickup purposes.

    Continue towards the roundabout to Bateson St. On the right is a patch of land for a proposed administration building. Behind this is the multistorey carpark with an entrance/exit ramp to Bateson St quite close to the roundabout. Through the roundabout is Dann Close to the left is a Childcare centre that backs onto Palmer St. The Blood Bank, Brindabella Specialist suites, Childcare Centre and Mental Health Facility are accessed by Dann Close.
    Having turned left into Bateson St at the roundabout we are confronted with a short narrow patch of roadway 50 to 60 metres long with two bus stops opposite each other and forms a T intersection with Palmer St. From Bateson turning right onto Palmer St is an absolute nightmare let alone turning left. But what freaks me out is Hindmarsh Drive is within less than 100 metres of this intersection. Hindmarsh Drive will be the main feeder road for Emergency vehicles to SPIRE. Ambulances accessing SPIRE via Palmer St will have to access off Hindmarsh onto a residential street.
    The southern end of Palmer St, at the intersection with Hindmarsh Drive going east and to the right sits Gaunt Place within 50 metres from Hindmarsh Drive. The right side of Gaunt Pl is now vacant, the building recently demolished to make way for a Mental Health facility. Staff used the vacant land behind the recently demolished building for vehicle parking. It’s now fenced off. p
    Parking revenue to government coffers on a working day basis must be profitable around the confines of TCH.
    This precinct is a death trap waiting to happen. With demolition and construction vehicles adding to the already unaddressed traffic issues, parking issues, school zone at the end of Palmer St.
    The residents at the southern end of Palmer St will be subjected to demolition and construction
    Issues when Bld 8 is demolished. Near the Bateson St/Palmer St T intersection is a pedestrian crossing you use with discretion, and a bit more discretion, then drum up the nerve to cross. There is a water drain nearby unable to cope with the gush of water during heavy rain, it pools water with traffic veering across the white line to oncoming traffic. Yes I do know we are in drought!
    Towards the Dennis St intersection the road climbs towards the crest. It becomes dicey with drivers turning right into Dennis St are often “honked” by vehicles heading down Palmer St to get a move on, while others break to avoid arse enders. Night and daytime the intersection is often taken by drivers not prepared for parked vehicles or vehicles reversing from driveways with many a near miss.

    Looking down Palmer St towards the school where the proposed emergency vehicle driveway will be, Palmer St from the Dennis St T intersection is a downhill gradient where vehicles apply the brakes fast or slow moving. I’m no traffic engineer, but why on a residential street, on a downhill run towards a school zone at a T intersection would you build an Emergency Entrance to the third busiest Emergency Centre in the country. Negligence or wonderful planning!

    Another issue is the proposed Helipad atop the 9 storey SPIRE building. Currently the chopper lands on the helipad Yamba Drive and Kitchener Street side of the hospital. At a meeting of GRA in the school library we were interrupted by the chopper, causing a brief suspension of the meeting, because we could not hear above the noise of the chopper. We were told initially by the Project spokesperson that the chopper lands on average once a day. Very debatable!

    The proposed Helipad will now be within 100 metres of residential housing. Most noise from the chopper is made when landing and taking off. It’s not rocket science. If you visit the current site as the chopper is landing or leaving you will understand the amount of noise it makes. Ask the people of Garran and Hughes, they hear it, they see it. The flight path will differ when SPIRE is completed. It will have a limited window of entry and exit, with the noise increasing and affecting a majority of Garran and Hughes residents. The chopper is not just heard from 300 or 400 yards away, you hear it before it comes into view, and know it’s close when windows begin to shake. We have gotten use to it using the current flight path. SPIRE flight paths will bring it much closer to the school and residential housing ie within 150 metres of the school and within 100 metres of residential housing. Where the helipad is now is acceptable! But no closer to kids and residents.

    The Local Community Reference Group is to be formed to include a diverse range of voices from the community. May I suggest everyone take a look at the Local Community Reference Group Application format and questions. If this is NOT designed to stifle community consultation, delay
    community consultation, vet applicants to suit the SPIRE agenda……..I am lost for words! For eg If the group voice concerns about the chopper noise. What then? Response :
    “ no worries. We are currently searching for a solar powered helicopter, but in the meantime we will have to keep using the current one.”
    How is the LCRG going to have a voice to come to agreements with planners of SPIRE when work has started

    The arrogance, the incompetence, the ineptness of the government to plan/design/implement such an important project for the people of Canberra into the future, to render the community powerless is just so amateur and immature.

    Glenn Pidgeon
    9 Palmer St
    Garran ACT


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