22 May 2019

Inside Chch Hospital's $483m Acute Services Building

11:39 am on 22 May 2019

Media were welcomed inside Christchurch Hospital's new $483 million Acute Services Building yesterday, for a glimpse inside the country's largest and most expensive hospital project to date.

The new Acute Services Building at Christchurch Hospital.

The new Acute Services Building at Christchurch Hospital. Photo: RNZ / Katie Todd

Construction has been beset with budget blowouts and delays - but six years on the building is about 95 percent complete, and a mid-November move-in date has been set.

The new building occupies 62,000 square metres of space, and features 3000 rooms, 13 elevators, 1000 glass panels, 1800 soap dispensers. There's enough steel reinforcing rod to reach from Christchurch to Melbourne, and the building is intensively seismically strengthened with 129 base-isolators.

Katoa Health Design Project Principal Darryl Haines said every step in construction has involved "complexity on top of complexity."

"It's not just the seismic stuff - it's also the infection control, the accoustics, fire design... it takes a huge team effort to sort that all out," he said.

And those complexities do not end at the building process. When it comes time to move-in, Canterbury DHB Executive Lead Facilities Management & Executive Director of Nursing Mary Gordon, said the logistics involved are incredible.

"From ensuring the technology is all working as it should, that the air quality in the new operating theatres meets the rigid standards, right down to how many boxes of gloves will be needed for Day 1," she said.

One key "asset" for the new facilities is the Helipad at 47 metres high. Currently, the Rescue Helicopter has to drop patients off next door at Hagley Park but when the Acute Services Building opens, there'll be space for two helicopters up top.

The new helipad at the Acute Services Building.

The new helipad at the Acute Services Building. Photo: RNZ / Katie Todd

Mr Haines said it's just one of the ways the new facility will ensure that the people of Christchurch are better off.

"At the moment we add 13 minutes to the journey from Hagley Park to the hospital, so we're eliminating that. They talk about the golden hour post-emergency and we're reducing that," he said.

Inside, the building is equipped to offer cutting-edge technology and treatment - from the 87 ceiling-mounted medical pendants installed in 12 operating theatres, to a pneumatic pipe system to transport samples from one side of the hospital to another in mere seconds.

The spaces are flooded with light and views out to Hagley Park, with what Mr Haines says is a focus on the healing power of nature.

In the upper six stories of wards, there's space for 413 inpatient beds. This will not increase the hospital's overall capacity - but Ministry of Health programme director Tony Lloyd said the building has been designed so it can be reconfigured, or extended with a third tower, if need be.

Facilities at the new Acute Services Building.

Facilities at the new Acute Services Building. Photo: RNZ / Katie Todd

"We've been going through a master planning capacity in collaboration with the DHB, to determine where future capacity is built on site. That's work that's underway at the moment... but it was always built with that future capacity in mind."

November 18 is the date set for the first patients to move into the new building - more than 16 months later than originally planned.

Before the "migration program" begins there needs to be an official handover from the contractors to the Canterbury District Health Board, a builders clean, the installation of all, fittings and equipment and then a full chemical clean. The Canterbury District Health Board says about 3000 staff members and up to 300 patients will be making the transition from existing facilities over a period of two weeks.

But Mr Lloyd said excitement is growing among those on site, about what has been achieved, what's just around the corner, and what it means for healthcare in Canterbury.

Inside the new Acute Services Building at Christchurch Hospital.

Inside the new Acute Services Building at Christchurch Hospital. Photo: RNZ / Katie Todd